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MAY  2  3  1949  J* 

Cornell  University  Library 
PQ  2506.A2V86  1898 


3   1924  027  382  914 


Crown  8vo.  cloth  extra,  3;.  6d.  each. 


THE  FAT  AND  THE  THIN  ('Le  Ventre  de  Paris'). 
Translated  by  Ernest  Alfred  Vizetelly, 

'A  very  satisfactory  rendering,  which  has  preserved  the  passion^  the  humour,  and  the 
teri-ihle  insight  of  the  original.  Zola  has  never  drawn  a  picture  more  pitilessly  faithful 
to  the  lower  side  of  our  common  humanity  than  tlus  is.  ■  •  ■  A  drama  wnich  reads  like  a 
pa^e  torn  out  of  the  hook  of  life  Itself.' — Sfbakbr. 

'  The  characters  are  drawn  with  a  master  hand,  and  the  two  rival  beauties  will 
bear  comparison  with  any  of  the  portrsuts  in  the  author's  literaiy  sallery.'— Glasgow 


THE  DRAM-SHOP  ('UAssommoir').    With  a  Preface  by 
E.  A.  Vizetelly, 

'After  reading  "L'AssommoIr"  and  Zola's  other  books,  It  seems  as  if  In  the  work  of 
all  other  novelists  there  were  a  veil  between  the  reader  and  the  things  described ;  and 
there  is  present  to  our  minds  the  same  difference  as  exists  between  a  human  face  as 
represented  on  canvas  and  the  same  face  as  reflected  in  a  mirror.  It  is  like  finding  truth 
for  the  first  time.'— Sighok  Eduohdo  dh  Auicis. 

MONEY  ('L' Argent').    Translated  by  E.  A.  Vizetelly. 

'  No  one  will  be  able  to  read  "  Money  "  without  a  deep  sense  of  its  absolute  truth. 
.  ,  .  Everjrthing  in  the  novel  is  on  a  grand  scale.  ...  A  vast  panorama  of  national 
viciousness. ...  An  Qverpowering  presentation  of  the  disasters  wrought  by  the  unbridled 
race  for  wealth.' — Morning  LEApgR, 

'  Suffice  it  to  say  of  this  book,  one  of  Zola's  masterpieces^  that  never  has  his  brilliant 

Jien  been  used  with  such  realistic,  life-like  force.  .  ,  .  The  figure  of  Sacard  isa  terrible, 
ascinating  creation.  His  love  of  money,  his  love  of  women  (an  altogether  secondary 
impulse),  his  fixed  hatred  of  the  Jews,  become  more  real  than  reality  itself.'— Van  itt 

HIS  EXCELLENCY  (*  Son  Excellence  Eugene  Rougon'). 
With  a  Preface  by  E,  A.  Vizetelly, 

'  The  supreme  craving  for  power  was  personified  by  Eu?%ne  Rougon,  the  great  man, 
the  eagle  of  the  ^mily,  who  loved  force  for  Its  own  sake,  and  conquered  Paris  in  company 
with  ul  the  adventurers  of  the  coming  Empire,  helped  by  his  band,  the  hungry  pack 
which  carried  him  alon^  and  preyed  upon  him ;  and,  although  momentarily  defeated  by  a 
woman,  the  lovely  Clormde,  for  whom  he  entertained  an  insensate  passion,  be  proved  so 
strong,  so  firm  of  purpose,  that  by  abandoning  every  principle  of  his  past  life  he  yet  agaia 
victoriously  climbed  to  power,  marching  on  to  the  triumphal  princely  position  of  Vice- 
Emperor.' — M.Z0LA  in  '  DocTOB  Fascau' 

THE    DREAM    ('Le    R£:ve').     Translated  by  Eliza  E. 
Chase.    With  8  Full-page  Illustrations  by  Georges  Jeanniot, 

'  M.  Zola  has  sought  in  this  charming  story  to  prove  to  the  world  that  he  too  can 
write  for  the  virgin,  and  that  he  can  paint  the  better  side  of  human  nature  in  colours  as 
tender  and  true  as  those  employed  by  any  of  his  contemporaries.  ...  It  is  a  beautiful 
story  admirably  told.' — Speaker. 

'Not  a  jarring  touch,  not  a  false  note  mars  the  harmony  of  this  beautiful  story  of 
Ideal  love.  .  .  .  Zola's  perfect  ease,  the  masterly  simplicity  of  his  vworkmanship,  his' 
wondrous  insight,  are  no  less  remarkable  than  the  delicacy,  grace,  and  infinite  charm  of 
the  great  master's  literaiy  style.'— Morhing  Leadbr. 

Novels  byEmile  Zola. 

THE    FORTUNE    OF    THE    ROUGONS.     Edited  by 


Ernest  A.  VizeTelly.  [Shortly. 

THE  DOWNFALL  ('  La  Debacle  ').  Translated  by  E.  A. 
VIZETELLY.     With  2  Plans  of  the  Battle  of  Sedan.  Tii.,- i  ■- 

•  It  would  probably  be  no  exaggeration  to  say  that,  taken  as  a  whole.     La  U«b^le 
is  the  most  wonderfully  faithful  reproduction  of  an  historical  drama  ever  conumtted  to 
writing     "La  D^bScle''  is  an  appalling  record  of  long-drawn-out  misery,  ^d 
military  and  official  incapadty,  unbroken  by  any  ray  ofhope  orsunshme.  — bPECTATOR. 

■  It  is  only  when  you  have  come  to  the  end  of  "  The  Downfall "  that  you  appreciate 
the  feverish  hurry  in  which  you  have  read  page  after  page,  and  that  yon  know  the 
splendid  art  with  which  M.  Zola  has  concealed  the  fervour,  the  pity,  the  agony,  and  the 
inspiration  with  which  he  has  told  the  tale.'— Sunday  Sun. 

DOCTOR  PASCAL.    Translated  by  E.  A.  Vizetelly.    With 
an  Etched  Portrait  of  the  Author. 
■This  book,  the  crown  and  conclusion  of  the  Rougon-Macquart  volumes,  strikes  us 
as  being  in  some  respects  the  most  powerful,  the  most  dramatic,  and  the  most  pathetic 

'  Dr.  Pascal  Rougon,  the  stilled  physician,  and  the  only  member  of  his  family  that 
has  escaped  the  fatal  taint  of  vice,  here  sits  in  judgment  upon  his  relatives  and  compatriots, 
and  exp&ins  the  causes  of  their  moral  decline  and  fall.  The  wort  fiirther  deals  with  many 
of  the  great  problems  of  the  time,  and  incidentally  with  the  much-debated  quesnon.  Is 
Christuinity  Played  Out?"  Artistically  blended,  however,  with  this  controversial  matter, 
and  the  deeply  interesting  researches  of  the  hero,  is  an  absorbing  love-story,  the  scene  of 
whidi  is  laid  under  the  burning  sky  of  Provence,  which  fires  the  human  heart  with  passion 
and  maddens  it  to  crime.' — Echo. 


LOURDES.    Translated  by  E.  A.  Vizetellv. 

'  A  great  and  notable  book,  .  .  .  The  glory  of  the  book  is  the  inesEhaustible,  over- 
flowing human  sympathy  which  transfuses  it  from  end  to  end. ...  As  you  read,  the  heart  is 
set  beating.  .  .  .  Instead  of  a  mere  name,  "  Ixjurdes"  will  always  be  something  of  a 
reality  to  every  reader  of  Zola's  admirable  pages.  ...  In  almost  every  respect  a  signal 
triumph — a  book  to  be  read  and  to  be  thankful  for.' — Nationai-  Observer. 

'  The  most  perfect  specimen  of  literary  art  yet  produced  by  M.  Zola.  .  .  .  Beyond 
question  his  best-written  book,  a  model  of  powerful  and  poetic  narrative,  brilliant  in  style, 
in  form,  and  in  colour.' — Graphic. 

ROME.    Translated  by  E.  A.  Vizetelly. 

*  A  very  ^eat  book.  .  .  We  judge  it  as  a  work  of  art,  and  as  such  we  must  accord  it 
very  high  praise.  Every  part,  great  or  small,  fits  perfectly  into  the  whole  ,  ,  .  The  Pope, 
the  Cardinalsj  and  all  the  lesser  dignitaries  of  the  Church  against  which  the  writo-  brings 
his  great  indictment  are  so  painted  that  neither  such  greatness  as  is  in  themselves,  nor 
the  greatness  of  the  cause  which  they  represent,  shall  be  forgotten  in  the  littleness  of  some 
of  the  methods  to  which  they  stoop.  —Guardian. 

PARIS.    Translated  by  E.  A.  Vizetelly. 

_'  These  pictures  of  Parisian  life  are  worthy  of  M.  Zola  at  his  besL  The  author's 
pas.Monate  love  of  the  poor,  his  intolerance  of  their  sufferings,  his  intense  hatred  of  all 
social  wrongs,  and  longing  for  reform  have  never  been  declared  with  more  sincerity, 
more  eloquence,  and  more  ability.  "Paris"  will  bring  him  new  admirers  and  nevr 
friends,  for  it  shovra  him  to  be  not  only  a  great  ^vriter  but  a  man  of  noble  aspirations  and 
splendid  courage.*— Pall  Mall  Gazette. 

London :  CHATTO  &  WINDUS,  iii  St.  Martin's  Lane,  W.C. 






*  No  one  who  has  read  the  new  romance  of  the  great  MastCT  of  ll^dum 
will  honestly  question  for  a  moment  whether  the  sensation  it  has  caused 
and  the  controversy  it  has  revived  are  due  to  its  intrinsic  ments,  or  are  a 
mere  echo  of  the  achievements  of  its  author  in  a  more  turbulent  field.  .  . 
The  truth  is  that  "  I^urdes  "  marks  a  breaking-away  from  orthodox  Zolaism, 
and  is  at  the  same  time  the  most  perfect  specimen  of  literOT  art^  yet 
produced  by  M.  Zola.  ..."  Lourdes  "  is  beyond  question  his  best;wnttea 
book,  a  model  ofpowerful  and  poetic  narrative,  brilliant  in  style,  id  form, 
and  in  colour.'— Graphic, 

*"  Lourdes"  will  excite  the  greatest  curiosity  and  interest,  ,  .  .  His 
endeavour,  evidently,  is  to  tell  us  exactly  what  may  be  seen  by  a  person 
who  accompanies  tJi?  pilgrimage  without  any  belief  in  its  miracles,  eithw 
for  or  against.  But  as  no  man  who  uses  his  eyes  can  help  having  a  point  of 
view,  M.  Zola  necessarily  has  one  of  his  own.  It  is  that  of  the  pure 
rationalist,  who  has  to  accept  certain  extraordinary  mamfestations  of 
curative  yower  in  the  waters,  and  at  the  same  time  to  account  for  them  oa 
purely  scientific  grounds.' — Daily  News. 

*  "  Lourdes  "  is  written,  it  must  be  admitted,  in  the  great  writer's  finest 
and  most  lucid  style,  .  ,  .  As  an  impartial  study  of  what  goes  on  at  the 
great  Continental  shrine,  M.  Zola's  book  is  profoundly  curious.'— To-D  a  v. 

'  M.  Zola's  work  on  faith-healing  and  miraculous  cures  is,  tn  our 
opinion,  as  solidly  good  as  anything  he  has  done.  .  .  .  The  volnme,  like 
his  last,  contains  some  detached  fragments  of  great  literary  beauty.* 


'  It  is  an  extremely  clever  book.'— Sunday  Times. 

'  Even  that  French  critic  who  once  said  of  M.  Zola's  noveU  that  he  did 
not  know  whether  they  were  "du  cochon  ou  de  I'art" — which  was  said 
before  that  beautiful,  pure  story  of  "  Le  Reve"  was  published— would  find 
no  cause  for  such  hesitation  in  "  Lourdes,"  in  which  there  is  nothing, 
absolutely  nothing,  of  the  brutal  or  the  scabrous.  It  is  a  piteous  story,  this 
story  of  Lourdes.'[  It  is  not  a  story,  indted,  so  much  as  a  history  of  an 
extraordinary  religious  movement,  a  marvellously  animated  description, 
infinitely  touching,  of  the  annual  pilgrimage  to  the  shrine.'— Morning. 

*  M.  Zola's  new  novel  exhibits  some  of  hts  highest  qualities.  .  ,  ,  He 
has  collected  his  "documents"  with  his  usual  painstaking  elaboration,  and 
the  book  abounds  with  vigorous  thought  and  subtle  delineation  of 
character.  The  descriptions  of  the  journey  to  Lourdes,  of  the  delirium  of 
religious  enthusiasm  with  which  the  people  crowd  to  the  miraculous  Grotto, 
are  not  surpassed  for  dramatic  force  and'  picturesnueness  even  by  die 
famous  one  of  the  march  to  Sedan  in  "The  Downfall,'*'— Observer. 

'"Lourdes"  will  do  much  to  enhance  M.Zola's  position.  .  .  .  Upon 
the  whole  it  is  a  very  clever  setting  of  scientific  questions  in  the  framework 
of  a  novel.'— Illustrated  Church  News, 

'A  great  and  notable  book.  .  .  .  The  greatest  living  master  of  the 
French  novel  could  not  have  triumphed  at  a  more  opportune  moment. 
The  glory  of  the  hook  is  the  inexhaustible,  overflowing  human  sympathy 
which  transfuses  it  from  end  to  end.  .  .  .  JVs  you  read  the  heart  is  set 
beating.  ,  .  .  Instead  of  a  mere  name,  "  Lourdes  "  will  always  be  some- 
thing of  a  reality  to  every  reader  of  Zola's  admirable  pages.  .  .  ,  Very 
many  of  the  incidents  in  the  book  are  of  the.  hapjuest,  and  some  of  them 
attain  to  a  paihos  to  equal  which  ^imparisons  must  be  sought  in  the 
masterpieces  of  romance.  ..."  Lourdes,"  indeed,  is  in  almost  every 
respect  a  signal  triumph— a  book  to  be  read  and  to  be  thankful  for.* 

._,     .  ,  „  National  Observer, 

■Ihe  interest  of  "Lourdes  is  twofold.  It  is  a  picture  drawn  by  a 
master  hand  of  the  actualities  of  the  pilgrimage  as  it  exists  to-day ;  and  U 
Is  an  attempt  by  a  keen  mind  to  present  psychic  h^ing  in  such  a  form  aa 
to  be  understood  and  realised  by  the  average  x«ader.* 

Rbvsw  of  Rgvibws. 










'An  endless  fountain  of  immortal  drink 
Pouring  unto  us  from  the  heavens'  brink' 


*  O  wearisome  condition  of  humanity  1 ' 

Fulke  Grevilh 

'  The  miserable  have  no  other  medicine 
But  only  hope' 

'  Now  faith  is  the  substance  of  things  hoped 
for,  the  evidence  of  things  not  seen ' 

St.  Fata 

'There  are  no  tricks  in  plain  and  simple  faith' 



Befoee  perusing  this  work,  the  first  volume  of  the  Trilogy 
of  the  Three  Cities,  it  is  as  well  that  the  reader  should  under- 
stand M.  Zola's  aim  in  writing  it,  and  his  views — as  dis- 
tinct from  those  of  his  characters — upon  Lourdes,  its  Grotto, 
and  its  cures.  When  the  hook  first  appeared  M.  Zola  was 
interviewed  upon  the  subject  by  his  friend  and  biographer, 
Mr.  Bobert  H.  Sherard  ;  and  some  extracts  from  the  interest- 
ing article  which  Mr.  Sherard  then  contributed  to  the  West- 
minster Gazette  are  here  appended,  the  editor  of  that  journal 
and  Mr.  Sherard  having  kindly  granted  the  translator  per- 
mission to  reproduce  them. 

'  "  Lourdes," '  said  M.  Zola,  'came  to  be  written  by  mere 
accident.  In  1891  I  happened  to  be  travelling  for  my  plea- 
sure, with  my  wife,  in  the  Basque  country  and  by  the  Pyrenees, 
and  being  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Lourdes,  included  it  in  my 
tour.  1  spent  fifteen  days  there,  and  was  greatly  struck  by 
what  I  saw,  and  it  then  occurred  to  me  that  there  was  material 
here  for  just  the  sort  of  novel  that  I  like  to  write — a  novel  in 
which  great  masses  of  men  can  be  shown  in  motion — un  grand 
mouvement  defoule — a  novel  the  subject  of  which  stirred  up 
my  philosophical  ideas. 

'It  was  too  late  then  to  study  the'  question,  for  I  had 
visited  Lourdes  late  in  September,  and  so  had  missed  seeing 
the  best  pilgrimage,  which  takes  place  in  August,  under  the 
direction  of  the  FSres  de  la  Mis6ricorde,  of  the  Bue  de 
I'Assomption  in  Paris — the  National  Pilgrimage,  as  it  is  called. 
These  Fathers  are  very  active,  enterprising  men,  and  have 


made  a  great  success  of  this  annual  national  pilgrimage. 
Under  their  direction  80,000  pilgrims  are  transported  to 
Lonrdes,  including  over  a  thousand  sick  persons. 

'  So  in  the  following  year  I  went  in  August,  and  saw  a 
national  pilgrimage,  and  followed  it  during  the  three  days 
which  it  lasts,  in  addition  to  the  two  days  given  to  travelling. 
After  its  departure,  I  stayed  on  ten  or  twelve  days,  working 
up  the  subject  in  every  detail.  My  book  is  the  story  of  such 
a  national  pilgrimage,  and  is,  accordingly,  the  story  of  five 
days.  It  is  divided  iato  five  parts,  each  of  which  parts  is 
limited  to  one  day. 

'  There  are  from  ninety  to  one  hundred  characters  in  the 
story :  sick  persons,  pilgrims,  priests,  nuns,  hospitallers,  nurses, 
and  peasants ;  and  the  book  shows  Lourdes  under  every 
aspect.  There  are  the  piscinas,  the  processions,  the  Grotto, 
the  churches  at  night,  the  people  in  the  streets.  It  is,  in 
one  word,  Lourdes  in  its  entirety.  In  this  canvas  is  worked 
out  a  very  delicate  central  intrigue,  as  in  "Dr.  Pascal,"  and 
around' this  are  many  little  stories  or  subsidiary  plots.  There 
is  the  story  of  the  sick  person  who  gets  well,  of  the  sick 
person  who  is  not  cured,  and  so  on.  The  philosophical  idea 
which  pervades  the  whole  book  is  the  idea  of  human  suffering, 
the  exhibition  of  the  desperate  and  despairing  sufferers  who, 
abandoned  by  science  and  by  man,  address  themselves  to  a 
higher  Power  in  the  hope  of  relief ;  as  where  parents  have  a 
dearly  loved  daughter  dying  of  consumption,  who  has  been 
given  up,  and  for  whom  nothing  remains  but  death.  A  sud- 
den hope,  however,  breaks  in  upon  them :  "  supposing  that 
after  all  there  should  be  a  Power  greater  than  that  of  man, 
higher  than  that  of  science."  They  will  haste  to  try  this  last 
chance  of  safety.  It  is  the  instinctive  hankering  after  the  lie 
which  creates  human  credulity. 

'  I  will  admit  that  I  came  across  some  instances  of  real 
cure.  Many  cases  of  nervous  disorders  have  undoubtedly 
been  cured,  and  there  have  also  been  other  cures  which  may 
perhaps  be  attributed  to  errors  of  diagnosis  on  the  part  of 
doctors  who  attended  the  patients  so  cured.'    Often  a  patient 


is  described  by  hia  doctor  as  suffering  from  consumption. 
He  goes  to  Lourdes,  and  is  cured.  However,  the  probability 
is  that  the  doctor  made  a  mistake.  In  my  own  case  I  was  at 
one  time  suffering  from  a  violent  pain  in  my  chest,  which 
presented  all  the  symptoms  of  angina  pectoris,  a  mortal 
malady.  It  was  nothing  of  the  sort.  Indigestion,  doubtless, 
and  as  such,  curable.  Eemember  that  most  of  the  sick 
persons  who  go  to  Lourdes  come  from  the  country,  and  that 
the  country  doctors  are  not  usually  men  of  either  great  skill 
or  great  experience.  But  all  doctors  mistake  symptoms.  Put 
three  doctors  together  to  discuss  a  case,  and  in  nine  cases  out 
of  ten  they  will  disagree  in  their  diagnosis.  Look  at  the 
quantities  of  tumours,  swellings,  and  sores,  which  cannot  be 
properly  classified.  These  cures  are  based  on  the  ignorance 
of  the  medical  profession.  The  sick  pretend,  believe,  that 
they  suffer  from  such  and  such  a  desperate  malady,  whereas 
it  is  from  some  other  malady  that  they  are  suffering.  And 
so  the  legend  forms  itself.  And,  of  course,  there  must  be  cures 
out  of  so  large  a  number  of  cases.  Nature  often  cures  without 
medical  aid.  Certainly,  many  of  the  workings  of  Nature  are 
wonderful,  but  they  are  not  supernatural.  The  Lourdes 
miracles  can  neither  be  proved  nor  denied.  The  miracle 
is  based  on  human  ignorance.  And  so  the  doctor  who  lives 
at  Lourdes,  and  who  is  commissioned  to  register  the  cures 
and  to  tabulate  the  miracles,  has  a  very  careless  time  of  it.  A 
person  comes,  and  gets  cured.  He  has  but  to  get  three  doctors 
together  to  examine  the  case.  They  will  disagree  as  to  what 
was  the  disease  from  which  the  patient  suffered,  and  the  only 
explanation  left  which  will  be  acceptable  to  the  public,  with 
its  hankering  after  the  lie,  is  that  a  miracle  has  been  vouch- 

'  I  interviewed  a  number  of  people  at  Lourdes,  and  could 
not  find  one  who  would  declare  that  he  had  witnessed  a 
miracle.  All  the  cases  which  I  describe  in  my  book  are  real 
cases,  in  which  I  have  only  changed  the  names  of  the  persons 
concerned.  In  none  of  these  instances  was  I  able  to  discover 
any  real  proof  for  or  against  the  miraculous  nature  of  the 


cure.  Thus,  in  the  case  of  Cldmentine  Trouv^,  who  figures  in 
my  story  as  Sophie — the  patient  who,  after  suffering  for  a 
long  time  from  a  horrid  open  sore  on  her  foot,  was  suddenly 
cured,  according  to  current  report,  by  bathing  her  foot  in  the 
piscina,  where  the  bandages  fell  off,  and  her  foot  was  entirely 
restored  to  a  healthy  condition — I  investigated  that  case 
thoroughly.  I  was  told  that  there  were  three  or  four  ladies 
living  in  Lourdes  who  could  guarantee  the  facts  as  stated  by 
little  Clementine.  I  looked  up  those  ladies.  The  first  said 
No,  she  could  not  vouch  for  anything.  She  had  seen  nothing. 
I  had  better  consult  somebody  else.  The  next  answered  in 
the  same  way,  and  nowhere  was  I  able  to  find  any  corrobora- 
tion of  the  girl's  story.  Yet  the  little  girl  did  not  look  like 
a  Uar,  and  I  believe  that  she  was  fuUy  convinced  of  the 
miraculous  nature  of  her  cure.  It  is  the  facts  themselves 
which  lie. 

'Lourdes,  the  Grotto,  the  cures,  the  miracles,  are,  indeed, 
the  creation  of  that  need  of  the  Lie,  that  necessity  for  credulity, 
which  is  a  characteristic  of  human  nature.  At  first,  when 
little  Bernadette  came  with  her  strange  story  of  what  she  had 
witnessed,  everybody  was  against  her.  The  Prefect  of  the 
Department,  the  Bishop,  the  clergy,  objected  to  her  story. 
But  Lourdes  grew  up  in  spite  of  all  opposition,  just  as  the 
Christian  rehgion  did,  because  suffering  humanity  in  its 
despair  must  cling  to  something,  must  have  some  hope :  and, 
on  the  other  hand,  because  humanity  thirsts  after  illusions. 
In  a  word,  it  is  the  story  of  the  foundation  of  all  religions.' 

To  the  above  account  of  '  Lourdes '  as  given  by  M.  Zola 
I  should  add  that  before  commencing  the  work  he  had  already 
planned  the  trilogy  of  which  it  was  to  form  the  first  section. 
'  Rome  '  and  '  Paris '  were  not  afterthoughts,  as  some  have 
imagined,  but  from  the  outset  formed  integral  portions  of 
M.  Zola's  conception.  Those  who  wish  to  understand  that 
conception  rightly  should  therefore  read  all  three  works  in 
their  proper  sequence.  At  the  same  time  each  volume  is  in 
some  measure  complete  in  itself,  just  as  were  the  various 


sections  of  M.  Zola's  '  Bougon-Macquart '  series,  ^ihough 
place-names  have  been  chosen  as  titles  for  the  three'  sections 
of  the  trilogy,  these  sections  deal  essentially  with  the  three 
cardinal  virtues,  Faith,  Hope,  and  Charity,  each  of  which  the 
author  discusses  in  turn.  In '  Lourdes,'  while  freely  admitting 
the  soul-hunger  which  consumes  so  large  a  part  of  humanity, 
he  argues  that  Faith  in  revealed  religion  is  virtually  dead,  des- 
troyed by  free  examination  and  the  teachings  of  science.  In 
'  Eome '  he  argues  that  no  Hope  can  be  placed  in  Christianity 
as  typified  by  the  Eoman  Catholic  Church,  whose  one  great 
object  is  earthly  domination,  and  by  no  means  the  raising  of 
humanity  to  a  higher  plane.  Finally,  in  '  Paris '  he  points  out 
that  Charity  is  powerless  to  relieve  the  sufferings  of  mankind ; 
that  all  the  ahns  dispensed  since  the  days  of  Christ  are  as  a 
mere  drop  of  water  beside  the  ocean  of  human  wretchedness ; 
and  that  the  masses,  after  1800  years  of  trial,  now  demand  the 
abolition  of  the  system  of  doles  and  the  inauguration  of  that  of 
Justice  for  one  and  all.  And,  in  conclusion,  with  Faith  dead, 
Hope  denied,  and  Charity  powerless,  he  points  to  the  eventual 
collapse  of  Christianity,  the  decay  of  aU  the  superstitions  and 
delusions  of  the  past,  and  the  advent  of  a  new  religion  in  which 
Science  wiU  play  no  inconsiderable  part.  Such,  briefly,  is  the 
purport  of  these  books  'Lourdes,' '  Eome,'  and '  Paris,'  which,  I 
believe,  wUl  eventually  take  prominent  rank  among  the  great 
literary  and  philosophical  efforts  of  the  age. 

As  for  '  Lourdes,"  the  very  great  success  and  controversy 
which  attended  its  original  publication  will  be  fresh  in  the 
minds  of  all  who  follow  what  is  called  '  the  literary  move- 
ment.' No  book  written  by  M.  Zola  has  circulated  more 
widely ;  none  has  been  more  vehemently  discussed.  It  has 
never  been  answered  by  its  adversaries,  for  one  cannot  confer 
the  rank  of  an  answer  on  the  farrago  of  nonsense  which 
Monseigneur  Eicard,  a  prelate  of  the  Papal  Household  and 
Vicar-General  of  Aix,  penned  under  the  title  of  'La  Vraie 
Bernadette  de  Lourdes,'  shortly  after  M.  Zola's  work  had 
appeared.  It  has  been  stated  that  Monseigneur  Eicard  was 
especially  chosen  by  Pope  Leo  XIII.  for   the   purpose   of 


annihilating  M.  Zola  by  a  prodigioas  counterblast,  but  how 
little  he  was  fit  for  such  a  task  may  be  seen  by  anyone  on 
turning  to  the  pages  of '  La  Vraie  Bernadette.'  The  Catholia 
Church  in  France,  as  elsewhere,  numbers  many  divines  of 
distinguished  Hterary  attainments  among  its  members,  and  I 
am  surprised  that  none  of  them  should  have  entered  the  lists 
against  M.  Zola,  but  possibly  ecclesiastical  discipline  prevented 
them  from  doing  so.  At  all  events,  apart  from  the  painful 
exhibition  which  Monseigneur  Eicard  made  of  himself,  there 
has,  hitherto,  been  no  genuine  effort  to  answer  '  Lourdes." 

That  the  Fathers  of  the  Holy  Grotto  were  deeply  incensed 
by  the  work  is  well  known.  A  few  months  after  it  had  been 
first  published  I  went  to  '  Lourdes,'  which  I  had  not  visited 
since  1875,  the  year  when  the  great  National  Pilgrimages 
were  inaugurated.  I  found,  of  course,  many  changes,  even  as 
is  recorded  in  the  following  pages.  However,  whilst  I  strolled 
through  the  town  I  inquired  of  various  booksellers  whether 
they  had  M.  Zola's  work  on  sale,  and  invariably  received  a 
negative  answer.  And  at  last  I  was  informed  that  the  Reverend 
Fathers  of  the  Grotto  had  brought  all  the  pressure  of  their 
great  influence  to  bear  on  the  Lourdes  booksellers,  with  the 
result  that  not  one  of  the  latter  dared  to  sell  the  work.  To 
sell  it  meant  a  '  boycott,'  or  possibly  notice  to  quit,  or  perse- 
cution at  the  hands  of  the  thousands  of  bigots  who  form  the 
vast  majority  of  the  Lourdes  population.  And  thus  after  a 
long  search  I  was  only  able  to  discover  M.  Zola's  work  at  the 
railway  bookstall,  the  property  of  Messrs.  Hachette  of  Paris, 
who  rightly  insisted  upon  freedom  of  action. 

As  another  example  of  the  hatred  manifested  against  M. 
Zola  at  Lourdes  I  may  mention  that,  about  the  time  of  my 
visit,  a  well-known  French  artist  was  sent  to  the  town  to  make 
sketches  for  an  illustrated  edition  of  the  book  which  was  then 
being  planned.  No  sooner,  however,  was  this  artist's  purpose 
ascertained  than  he  was  reviled,  driven  from  his  hotel,  set 
upon,  and  incessantly  persecuted.  Such  are  some  of  the 
penalties  which  one  has  to  pay^/hen  one  desires  to  further  the 
cause  of  truth. 

PREFACE  xiii 

One  other  recollection  attaches  to  this  visit  of  mine  to 
Lourdes.  Among  the  pDgrims  who  had  just  been  healed  at 
the  Holy  Grotto  was  a  Scotch  lady  who  had  travelled  to  the 
shrine  under  much  the  same  circumstances  as  Marie  de  Guer- 
saint,  M.  Zola's  heroine.  And,  curiously  enough,  she  had 
been  cured  in  almost  precisely  the  same  manner  as  Marie. 
The  reader  of  this  volume  will  therefore  hear  in  mind  that  the 
story  told  by  M.  Zola  is  no  mere  romance,  but  a  story  reared 
on  a  substantial  scientific  basis,  and  as  near  to  actual  fact  as 
could  be  devised.  M.  Zola  is  always  so  careful,  so  precise  in 
all  his  statements,  that  the  latter  can  hardly  need  any  cor- 
roboration from  me.  Yet  I  may  say  that  on  returning  to 
Lourdes  I  found  his  descriptions  marvellously  accurate.  I 
have  only  one  criticism  to  offer :  it  is,  that  he  has  under- 
stated rather  than  exaggerated  the  truth,  especially  with  re- 
gard to  the  vice  which  flaunts  itself  by  night  in  the  streets  of 
Lourdes.  One  who  was  with  me  vras  amazed  by  it;  but 
personally,  I  was  not  surprised,  for  long  acquaintance  with 
the  southern  lands  of  Europe  has  taught  me  that  superstition 
and  vice  ever  go  hand  in  hand. 

Several  editions  of  this  translation  of  '  Lourdes '  have ' 
already  been  issued,  and  I  have  now  carefully  revised  it,  freely 
availing  myself  of  the  suggestions  both  of  the  newspaper 
reviev.-ers  and  of  the  legion  of  correspondents  who  for  some 
years  have  written  to  me  to  praise  or  blame  my  work. 
I  cannot  say  that  this  is  now  a  perfect  translation,  but  I 
believe  that  I  have  considerably  improved  it,  and  at  all  events 
it  is  as  perfect  as  I  myself  can  make  it. 

E.  A.  V. 
Mebton,  Scbrey: 

July  1893. 



I.      PILQIIIMS  AND  PATIENTS     ....•«..  1 

II.  PIEBBB  AND  MARIE     *■  .  .-.'.  .  •  .,18 

nl.  POITIEBS  .*.* '•  •  •  tST 

IV.  MIBACIiES        .  .  .  .  •  .  •'•  •  ,      ,        56 

T.  BEBNADETTE       ......  .•••78 


I.      THE  IBAIN  ABBIVES 102 

II.      EOSFITAI.  AND  QBOTTO .  120 


IT.     TEBIEICATION •          .          .     .  1S8 

V,      -BT'.p.MlTtTi'TTB'g    TBIALS  .  .  .  ^  .  •  •  .       178 


I.      BED  AND  SOABD ■  .      .      199 

n.      THE  '  OBDINABi;  ' 217 

ni.      THE  HiaHT  PBOCESSION 239 

IT.    THE  Tiani        .        .        .       • 256 

T.      IHB  TWO  VICTIMS  •••••••..      276 




I.  THE  BECIEKNESS  OP  DEATH         .,..••• 

n.  IIIE   SEEVICE  AT  THE   GEOTTO         •  •  •  •  •  •     •  oW 

III.  HAEIE'S  cube   .ft ••  3"° 

IV.  IlilCMPH — DESPAIB         ...■•••••  °^'' 

T.  CEAELB  AND  GEATE •  •  ^65 


I.      EGOTISM  AKD  LOVE •  ^°* 

II.      SLEASANT  H0UK3         ..  ..•_•••  ^"'■ 

III.     DEPAEIDKE   .,...••••••  *^' 

iy.    maeie's  tow •        •        •  "^ 

V.      THE   DEATH   OF  BEENADETTE — THE    SEW  EELiaiOJI  •  •      •  »"'' 

L  O  U  R  D  E  S 



The  pilgrims  and  patients,  closely  packed  on  the  hard  seats 
of  the  third-class  carriage,  were  just  finishing  the  '  Ave  maris 
Stella,'  which  they  had  begun  to  chant  on  leaving  the 
terminus  of  the  Orleans  line,  when  Marie,  slightly  raised  on 
her  couch  of  misery  and  restless  with  feverish  impatience, 
caught  sight  of  the  Paris  fortifications  through  the  window  of 
the  moving  train. 

'  Ah,  the  fortifications  ! '  she  exclaimed,  in  a  tone  which 
was  joyous  despite  her  suffering.  '  Here  we  are,  out  of  Paris ; 
we  are  off  at  last  1 ' 

Her  delight  drew  a  smile  from  her  father,  M.  de  Guer- 
saint,  who  sat  in  front  of  her,  whilst  Abbe  Pierre  Froment, 
who  was  looking  at  her  with  fraternal  affection,  was  so 
carried  away  by  his  compassionate  anxiety  as  to  say  aloud : 
*  And  now  we  are  in  for  it  till  to-morrow  morning.  We  shall 
only  reach  Lourdes  at  three-forty.  We  have  more  than  two 
and  twenty  hours'  journey  before  us.' 

It  was  half-past  five,  the  sun  had  risen,  radiant  in  the 
pure  sky  of  a  delightful  morning.  It  was  a  Friday,  the  19th 
of  August.  On  the  horizon,  however,  some  small  heavy 
clouds  already  presaged  a  terrible  day  of  stormy  heat.  And 
the  oblique  sun  rays  were  enfilading  the  compartments  of 
the  railway  carriage,  filling  them  with  dancing,  golden 
dust.  ^^  ^ 


'  Yes,  two  and  twenty  hours,'  murtnured  Marie,  relapsing 
into  anguish.    '  Mon  Dieu  1  what  a  long  time  we  must  still 

wait ! '  •     •     ii. 

Then  her  father  helped  her  to  he  down  agam  m  tne 
narrow  box,  a  kind  of  wooden  gutter,  in  which  she  had  been 
living  for  seven  years  past.  Making  an  exception  in  her 
favour,  the  railway  officials  had  consented  to  take  as  luggage 
the  two  pairs  of  wheels  which  could  be  removed  from  the  box, 
or  fitted  to  it  whenever  it  became  necessary  to  transport  her 
from  place  to  place.  Packed  between  the  sides  of  this 
movable  coiBn,  she  occupied  the  room  of  three  passengers  on 
the  carriage  seat ;  and  for  a  moment  she  lay  there  with  eyes 
closed.  Although  she  was  three  and  twenty,  her  ashen, 
emaciated  face  was  stUl  delicately  infantile,  charming  despite 
everything,  in  the  midst  of  her  marvellous  fair  hair,  the  hair 
of  a  queen,  which  illness  had  respected.  Clad  with  the  utmost 
simplicity  in  a  gown  of  thin  woollen  stuff,  she  wore,  hanging 
from  her  neck,  the  card  bearing  her  name  and  number,  which 
entitled  her  to  hospitalisation,  or  free  treatment.  She  herself 
had  insisted  on  making  the  journey  in  this  humble  fashion, 
not  wishing  to  be  a  source  of  expense  to  her  relatives,  who 
little  by  little  had  fallen  into  very  straitened  circumstances. 
And  thus  it  was  that  she  found  herself  in  a  third-class 
carriage  of  the  'white  train,*  the  train  which  carried  tbe 
greatest  sufferers,  the  most  woeful  of  the  fourteen  trains  going 
to  Lourdes  that  day,  the  one  in  which,  in  addition  to  five 
hundred  healthy  pilgrims,  nearly  three  hundred  imfortunate 
wretches,  weak  to  the  point  of  exhaustion,  racked  by  suffer- 
ing, were  heaped  together,  and  borne  at  express  speed  from 
one  to  the  other  end  of  France. 

Sorry  that  he  had  saddened  her,  Pierre  continued  to  gaze 
at  her  with  the  air  of  a  compassionate  elder  brother.  He  had 
just  completed  his  thirtieth  year,  and  was  pale  and  slight, 
with  a  broad  forehead.  After  busying  himself  with  all  tho 
arrangements  for  the  journey,  he  had  been  desirous  of  ac- 
companying her,  and,  having  obtained  admission  among  the 
Hospitallers  of  Our  Lady  of  Salvation  as  an  auxiliary  mem- 
ber, wore  on  his  cassock  the  red,  orange-tipped  cross  of  a 
bearer.  M.  de  Guersaint  on  his  side  had  simply  pinned  the 
little  scarlet  cross  of  the  pilgrimage  on  his  grey  cloth  jacket 
The  idea  of  travelling  appeared  to  delight  him  ;  although  he 
was  over  fifty  he  still  looked  young,  and,  with  his  eyes  ever 
wandering  over  the  landscape,  he  seemed  unable  to  keep,  his 


head  still — a  bird-like  head  it  was,  with  an  expression  of  good 
nature  and  absent-mindedness. 

However,  in  spite  of  the  violent  shaking  of  the  train, 
which  constantly  drew  sighs  from  Marie,  Sister  Hyacinthe 
had  risen  to  her  feet  in.  the  adjoining  compartment.  She 
noticed  that  the  sun's  rays  were  streaming  in  the  girl's  face. 

'Pulldown  the  bUnd,  Monsieur  I'Abb^,'  she  said  to  Pierre. 
'  Come,  come,  we  must  install  ourselves  properly,  and  set  our 
little  household  in  order.' 

Clad  in  the  black  robe  of  a  Sister  of  the  Assumption, 
enlivened  by  a  white  coif,  a  white  wimple,  and  a  large  white 
apron.  Sister  Hyacinthe  smiled,  the  picture  of  courageous 
activity.  Her  youth  bloomed  upon  her  small,  fresh  lips,  and 
in  the  depths  of  her  beautiful  blue  eyes,  whose  expression 
was  ever  gentle.  She  was  not  pretty,  perhaps,  still  she  was 
charming,  slender  and  tall,  the  bib  of  her  apron  covering  a 
flat  chest  like  that  of  a  young  man;  one  of  good  heart, 
displaying  a  snowy  complexion,  and  overflowing  with  health, 
gaiety,  and  innocence. 

'  But  this  sun  is  already  roasting  us,'  said  she ;  '  pray  pull 
down  your  blind  as  well,  madame.' 

Seated  in  the  comer,  near  the  Sister,  was  Madame  do 
JonquiSre,  who  had  kept  her  little  bag  on  her  lap.  She 
slowly  pulled  down  the  bhnd.  Dark,  and  well  built,  she  was 
still  nice-looking,  although  she  had  a  daughter,  Eaymonde, 
who  was  four  and  twenty,  and  whom  for  motives  of  propriety 
she  had  placed  in  the  charge  of  two  lady-hpspitallers,  Madame 
D^sagneaux  and  Madame  Volmar,  in  a  first-class  carriage. 
For  her  part,  directress  as  she  was  of  a  ward  of  the  Hospital 
of  Our  Lady  of  Dolours  at  Lourdes,  she  did  not  quit  her 
patients ;  and  outside,  swinging  against  the  door  of  her  com- 
partment, was  the  regulation  placard  bearing  under  her  own 
name  those  of  the  two  Sisters  of  the  Assumption  who  accom- 
panied her.  The  widow  of  a  ruined  man,  she  lived  with  her 
daughter  on  the  scanty  income  of  four  or  five  thousand  francs 
a  year,  at  the  rear  of  a  courtyard  in  the  Rue  Vanneau.  But 
her  charity  was  inexhaustible,  and  she  gave  all  her  time  to 
the  work  of  the  Hospitality  of  Our  Lady  of  Salvation,  an  in- 
stitution whose  red  cross  she  wore  on  her  gown  of  carmeUta 
poplin,  and  whose  aims  she  furthered  with  the  most  active  zeal. 
Of  a  somewhat  proud  disposition,  fond  of  being  flattered  and 
loved,  she  took  great  delight  in  this  annual  journey,  from 
which  both  her  heart  and  her  passion  derived  contentment. 



'You  are  right,  Sister,'  she  said,  'we  will  organiss 
matters.  I  really  don't  know  why  I  am  encumhering  myself 
with  this  bag.' 

And  thereupon  she  placed  it  under  the  seat,  near  her. 

'  Wait  a  moment,'  resumed  Sister  Hyacinthe  ;  '  you  have 
the  water-can  between  your  legs — it  is  in  your  way.' 

'  No,  no,  it  isn't,  I  assure  you.  Let  it  be.  It  must  alwaya 
be  somewhere.' 

Then  they  both  set  their  house  in  order  as  they  expressed 
it,  so  that  for  a  day  and  a  night  they  might  live  with  their 
patients  as  comfortably  as  possible.  The  worry  was  that 
they  had  not  been  able  to  take  Marie  into  their  compartment, 
as  she  wished  to  have  Pierre  and  her  father  near  her ;  how- 
ever neighbourly  intercourse  was  easy  enough  over  the  low 
partition.  Moreover  the  whole  carriage,  with  its  five  com- 
partments of  ten  seats  each,  formed  but  one  moving  chamber, 
a  common  room  as  it  were  which  the  eye  took  in  at  a  glance 
from  end  to  end.  Between  its  wooden  walls,  bare  and  yellow, 
under  its  white-painted  panelled  roof,  it  showed  like  a 
hospital  ward,  with  all  the  disorder  and  promiscuous 
jumbhng  together  of  an  improvised  ambulance.  Basins, 
brooms,  and  sponges  lay  about,  half-hidden  by  the  seats. 
Then,  as  the  train  only  carried  such  luggage  as  the  pilgrims 
could  take  with  them,  there  were  valises,  deal  boxes,  bonnet 
boxes  and  bags,  a  wretched  pile  of  poor  worn-out  things 
mended  with  bits  of  string,  heaped  up  a  little  bit  everywhere  ; 
and  overhead  the  litter  began  again,  what  with  articles  of 
clothing,  parcels  and  baskets  hanging  from  brass  pegs  and 
swinging'  to  and  fro  without  a  pause. 

■  Amidst  all  this  frippery  the  more  afflicted  patients, 
stretched  on  their  narrow  mattresses,  which  took  up  the  room 
of  several  passengers,  were  shaken,  carried  along  by  the 
rumbling  gyrations  of  the  wheels ;  whilst  those  who  were  able 
to  remain  seated,  leaned  against  the  partitions,  their  faces 
pale,  their  heads  resting  upon  piUows.  According  to  the 
regulations  there  should  have  been  one  lady-hospitaller  to 
each  compartment.  However,  at  the  other  end  of  the 
carriage  there  was  but  a  second  Sister  of  the  Assumption, 
Sister  Claire  des  Anges.  Some  of  the  pilgrims  who  were  in 
good  health  were  already  getting  up,  eating  and  drinking. 
One  compartment  was  entirely  occupied  by  women,  ten 
pUgrims  closely  pressed  together,  young  ones  and  old  ones, 
nil, sadly,  .pitifully  ugly.    And  as  nobody  dared  to  open  the 


windows  on  account  of  the  consumptives  in  the  carriage,  the 
heat  soon  began  to  make  itself  felt,  and  an  unbearable  odour 
arose,  set  free  as  it  were  by  the  jolting  of  the  train  as  it  went 
its  way  at  express  speed. 

They  had  said  -their  chaplets  at  Juvisy ;  and  six  o'clock 
was  striking,  and  they  were  rushing  like  a  hurricane  past  the 
station  of  Bretigny,  when  Sister  Hyacinthe  rose  up.  It  was 
she  who  directed  the  pious  exercises,  which  most  of  the 
pilgrims  followed  from  small,  blue-covered  books. 

'  The  Angelus,  my  children,'  said  she  with  her  pleasant 
smile,  her  maternal  air  which  her  great  youth  rendered  so 
charming  and  so  sweet. 

Then  the  '  Aves  '  again  followed  one  another,  and  were 
drawing  to  an  end  when  Pierre  and  Marie  began  to  feel 
interested  in  two  women  who  occupied  the  other  corner  seats 
of  their  compartment.  One  of  them,  she  who  sat  at  Marie's 
feet,  was  a  blonde  of  slender  build  and  bourgeoise  appearance, 
some  thirty  and  odd  years  of  age,  and  faded  before  she  had 
grown  old.  She  shrank  back,  scarcely  occupying  any  room, 
wearing  a  dark  dress,  and  showing  colourless  hair,  and  a  long 
grief-stricken  face  which  expressed  unlimited  self-abandon- 
ment, infinite  sadness.  The  woman  in  front  of  her,  she  who 
sat  on  the  same  seat  as  Pierre,  was  of  the  same  age,  but 
belonged  to  the  working  classes.  She  wore  a  black  cap  and 
displayed  a  face  ravaged  by  wretchedness  and  anxiety,  whilst 
on  her  lap  she  held  a  Httle  girl  of  seven,  who  was  so  pale,  so 
wasted  by  illness,  that  she  seemed  scarcely  four.  With  her 
nose  contracted,  her  eyelids  lowered  and  showing  blue  in  her 
waxen  face,  the  child  was  unable  to  speak,  unable  to  give, 
utterance  to  more  than  a  low  plaint,  a  gentle  rnoan,  which 
rent  the  heart  of  her  mother,  leaning  over  her,  each  time  that 
she  heard  it. 

'  Would  she  eat  a  few  grapes  ?  '  timidly  asked  the  lady 
who  had  hitherto  preserved  silence.  'I  have  some  in  my 

'  Thank  you;  madame,'  replied  the  woman, '  she  only  takes 
milk,  and  sometimes  not  even  that  willingly,  I  took  care  to 
bring  a  bottleful  with  me.' 

Then,  giving  way  to  the  desire  which  possesses  the 
wretched  to  confide  their  woes  to  others,  she  began  to  relate 
her  story.  Her  name  was  Vincent,  and  her  husband,  a  gilder 
by  trade,  had  been  carried  off  by  consTunption.  Left  alone 
with  her  little  Bose,  who  was  the  passion  of  her  heart,  she 

6  .  LOURDES 

had  worked  by  day  and  night  at  her  calling  as  a  dressmaker 
in  order  to  bring  the  child  up.  But  disease  had  come,  and 
for  fourteen  months  now  she  had  had  her  in  her  arms  lite 
that,  growing  more  and  more  woeful  and  wasted  until  reduced 
almost  to  nothingness.  She,  the  mother,  who  never  went  to 
mass,  had  one  day  entered  a  church,  impelled  by  despair  to 
pray  for  her  daughter's  cure ;  and  there  she  had  heard  a 
voice  which  had  told  her  to  take  the  little  one  to  Lourdes, 
where  the  Blessed  Virgin  would  have  pity  on  her._  Acquainted 
with  nobody,  not  knowing  even  how  the  pilgrimages  were 
organised,  she  had  had  but  one  idea — to  work,  save  up  the 
money  necessary  for  the  journey,  take  a  ticket,  and  start  off 
with  the  thirty  sous  remaining  to  her,  destitute  of  allsuppUes 
save  a  bottle  of  milk  for  the  clrild,  not  having  even  thought  of 
purchasing  a  crust  of  bread  for  herself. 

'  What  is  the  poor  little  thing  suffering  from  ? '  resumed 
the  lady. 

'  Oh,  it  must  be  consumption  of  the  bowels,  madame  1  But 
the  doctors  have  names  they  give  it.  At  first  she  only  had 
slight  pains  in  the  stomach.  Then  her  stomach  began  to 
swell  and  she  suffered,  oh,  so  dreadfully  !  it  made  one  cry  to 
see  her.  Her  stomach  has  gone  down  now,  only  she's  worn 
out ;  she  has  got  so  thin  that  she  has  no  legs  left  her,  and 
she's  wasting  away  with  continual  sweating.' 

Then,  as  Eose,  raising  her  eyelids,  began  to  moan,  her 
mother  leant  over  her,  distracted  and  turning  pale.  '  What 
is  the  matter,  my  jewel,  my  treasure  ? '  she  asked.  •  Do  you 
want  to  drink  ? ' 

But  the  little  girl  was  already  closing  her  dim  eyes  of  a 
hazy  sky-blue  hue,  and  did  not  even  answer,  but  relapsed 
into  her  torpor,  quite  white  in  the  white  frock  she  wore — a  last 
coquetry  on  the  part  of  her  mother,  who  had  gone  to  this 
useless  expense  in  the  hope  that  the  Virgin  would  be  more 
compassionate  and  gentle  to  a  little  sufferer  who  was  well 
dressed,  so  immaculately  white. 

There  was  an  interval  of  silence,  and  then  Madame 
Vincent  inquired :  '  And  you,  madame,  it's  for  yourself  no 
doubt  that  you  are  going  to  Lourdes  ?  One  can  see  very  well 
that  you  are  ill.' 

But  the  lady,  with  a  frightened  look,  shrank  woefully  into 
her  corner,  mtirmuring :  '  No,  no,  I  am  not  iU.  Would  to 
God  that  I  were  !    I  should  suffer  less." 

Her  name  vras  Madame  Maze,  and  her  heart  was  full  of 


an  incurable  grief.  After  a  love  marriage  to  a  big,  gay 
fellow  with  ripe,  red  lips,,  she  had  found  herself  deserted  at  the 
end  of  a  twelvemonth's  honeymoon.  Ever  travelling,  follow- 
ing the  profession  of  a  jeweller's  bagman,  her  husband,  who 
earned  a  deal  of  money,  would  disappear  for  six  months  at  a 
stretch,  deceive  her  from  one  frontier  to  the  other  of  France, 
at  times  even  carrying  creatures  about  with  him.  And  she 
worshipped  him ;  she  suffered  so  frightfully  from  it  all  that 
she  had  sought  a  remedy  in  rehgion,  and  had  at  last  made 
up  her  mind  to  repair  to  Lourdes,  in  order  to  pray  the  Virgin 
to  restore  her  husband  to  her  and  make  him  amend  his 

Although  Madame  Vincent  did  not  understand  the  other's 
words,  she  realised  that  she  was  a  prey  to  great  mental 
afBiction,  and  they  continued  looking  at  one  another,  the 
mother,  whom  the  sight  of  her  dying  daughter  was  killing, 
and  the  abandoned  wife,  whom  her  passion  cast  into  throes 
of  death-Kke  agony. 

However,  Pierre,  who,  like  Marie,  had  been  listening  to 
the  conversation,  now  intervened.  He  was  astonished  that 
the  dressmaker  had  not  sought  free  treatment  for  her  little 
patient.  The  Association  of  Our  Lady  of  Salvation  had  been 
founded  by  the  Augustine  Fathers  of  the  Assumption  after 
the  Franco-German  War,  with  the  object  of  contributing  to 
the  salvation  of  France  and  the  defence  of  the  Church  by 
prayer  in  common  and  the  practice  of  charity;  and  it  was 
this  association  which  had  promoted  the  great  pilgrimage 
movement,  in  particular  initiating  and  unremittingly  extend- 
ing the  national  pilgrimage  which  every  year,  towards  the 
close  of  August,  set  out  for  Lourdes.  An  elaborate  organisa- 
tion had  been  gradually  perfected,  donations  of  considerable 
amounts  were  collected  in  all  parts  of  the  world,  sufferers 
were  enrolled  in  every  parish,  and  agreements  were  signed 
with  the  railway  companies,  to  say  nothing  of  the  active  help 
of  the  Little  Sisters  of  the  Assumption  and  the  establishment 
of  the  HospitaUty  of  Our  Lady  of  Salvation,  a  widespread 
brotherhood  of  the  benevolent,  in  which  one  beheld  men  and 
women,  mostly  belonging  to  society,  who,  under  the  orders  of 
the  pilgrimage  managers,  nursed  the  sick,  helped  to  transport 
them,  and  watched  over  the  observance  of  good  discipline.  A 
written  request  was  needed  for  the  sufferers  to  obtain  fws^pitaU- 
sation,  which  dispensed  them  from  making  the  smallest 
payment  in  respect  either  of  their  journey  or  their  sojourn ; 


they  were  fetched  from  their  homes  and  conveyed  back 
thither ;  and  they  simply  had  to  provide  a  few  provisions  for 
the  road.  By  far  the  greater  number  were  recommended  by 
priests  or  benevolent  persons,  who  superintended  the  inquiries 
concerning  them  and  obtained  the  needful  papers,  such  as 
doctors'  certificates  and  certificates  of  birth.  And,  these 
matters  bemg  settled,  the  sick  ones  had  nothing  further  to 
trouble  about,  they  became  but  so  much  suffering  flesh,  food 
for  mu:aoles,  in  the  hands  of  the  hospitallers  of  either  sex. 

'  But  you  need  only  have  appUed  to  your  parish  priest, 
madame,'  Pierre  explained.  *  This  poor  child  is^  deserving 
of  every  sympathy.  She  would  have  been  immediately 

'  I  did  not  know  it,  Monsieur  I'Abb^.' 
'  Then  how  did  you  manage  ? ' 

'  Why,  Monsieur  I'Abb^,  I  went  to  take  a  ticket  at  a  place 
which  one  of  my  neighbours,  who  reads  the  newspapers,  told 
me  about.' 

She  was  referring  to  the  tickets,  at  greatly  reduced  rates, 
which  were  issued  to  the  pilgrims  possessed  of  means.  And 
Marie,  listening  to  her,  felt  great  pity  for  her,  and  also  some 
shame ;  for  she  who  was  not  entirely  destitute  of  resources 
had  succeeded  in  obtaining  hospitalisation,  thanks  to  Pierre, 
whereas  that  mother  and  her  sorry  child,  after  exhausting 
their  scanty  savings,  remained  without  a  copper. 

However,  a  more  violent  jolt  of  the  carriage  drew  a  cry  of 
pain  from  the  girl.  '  Oh,  father,'  she  said, '  pray  raise  me  a 
little  1    I  can't  stay  on  my  back  any  longer.' 

When  M.  de  Guersaint  had  helped  her  into  a  sitting 
posture,  she  gave  a  deep  sigh  of  relief.  They  were  now  at 
iStampes,  after  a  run  of  an  hour  and  a  half  from  Paris,  and 
what  with  the  increased  warmth  of  the  sun,  the  dust,  and  the 
noise,  weariness  was  becoming  apparent  already.  Madame 
de  JonquiSre  had  got  up  to  speak  a  few  words  of  kindly 
encouragement  to  Marie  over  the  partition ;  and  Sister 
Hyacinthe  moreover  again  rose,  and  gaily  clapped  her  hands 
that  she  might  be  heard  and  obeyed  from  one  to  the  other 
end  of  the  carriage. 

'  Come,  come ! '  said  she, '  we  mustn't  think  of  our  little 
troubles.  Let  us  pray  and  sing,  and  the  Blessed  Virgin  will 
be  with  us.* 

She  herself  then  began  the  Rosary  according  to  the  rite 
of  Our  Lady  of  I^ourdes,  and  all  the  patients  and  pilgrims 


followed  her.  This  was  the  first  chaplet — ^the  five  joyful 
mysteries,  the  Annunciation,  the  Visitation,  the  Nativity,  the 
Purification,  and  Jesus  found  in  the  Temple,  Then  they  all  be- 
gan to  chant  the  canticle  :  '  Let  us  contemplate  the  heavenly 
Archangel  1 '  Their  voices  were  lost  amid  the  loud  rumbling 
of  the  wheels ;  you  heard  but  the  muffled  surging  of  that 
human  wave,  stifling  within  the  closed  carriage  which  rolled 
on  and  on  without  a  pause. 

Although  M.  de  Guersaint  was  a  worshipper,  he  could 
never  follow  a  hymn  to  the  end.  He  got  up,  sat  down  again, 
and  finished  by  resting  his  elbow  on  the  partition  and  con- 
versing in  an  undertone  with  a  patient  who  sat  against  this 
same  partition  in  the  next  compartment.  The  patient  in 
question  was  a  thick-set  man  of  fifty,  with  a  good-natured 
face  and  a  large  head,  completely  bald.  His  name  was 
Sabathier,  and  for  fifteen  years  he  had  been  stricken  with 
ataxia.  He  only  suffered  pain  by  fits  and  starts,  but  he  had 
quite  lost  the  use  of  his  legs,  which  his  wife,  who  accom- 
panied him,  moved  for  him  as  though  they  had  been  dead 
legs,  whenever  they  became  too  heavy,  weighty  like  bars  of 

'Yes,  monsieur,'  he  said,  'such  as  you  see  me,  I  was 
formerly  fifth  class  professor  at  the  Lycde  Charlemagne.  At 
first  I  thought  that  it  was  mere  sciatica,  but  afterwards  I  was 
seized  with  sharp,  hghtning-hke  pains,  red-hot  sword  thrusts, 
you  know,  in  the  muscles.  During  nearly  ten  years  the 
disease  kept  on  mastering  me  more  and  more.  I  consulted 
all  the  doctors,  tried  every  imaginable  mineral  spring,  and 
now  I  suffer  less,  but  I  can  no  longer  move  from  my  seat.  And 
then,  after  long  living  without  a  thought  of  religion,  I  was 
led  back  to  God  by  the  idea  that  I  was  too  wretched,  and  that 
Our  Lady  of  Lourdes  could  not  do  otherwise  than  take  pity 
on  me.' 

Feeling  interested,  Pierre  in  his  turn  had  leant  over  the 
partition  and  was  listening. 

'  Is  it  not  so.  Monsieur  I'Abb^  ?  '  continued  M.  Sabathier. 
'Is  not  suffering  the  best  awakener  of  souls?  This  is  the 
seventh  year  that  I  am  going  to  Lourdes  without  despairing 
of  cure.  This  year  the  Blessed  Virgin  will  cure  me,  I  feel 
sure  of  it.  '  Yes,  I  expect  to  be  able  to  walk  about  again ;  I 
now  live  solely  in  that  hope.' 

M.  Sabathier  paused,  he  wished  his  wife  to  push  his  lega 
9>  Uttk  more  t9  the  left ;  and  Pierre  looked  at  him,  astonished 


to  find  such  obstinate  faith  in  a  man  of  intellect,  in  one  of 
those  university  professors  who,  as  a  rula,  are  such  Voltairians. 
How  could  the  belief  in  miracles  have  germinated  and  taken 
root  in  this  man's  brain  ?  As  he  himself  said,  great  suffering 
alone  explained  this  need  of  illusion,  this  blossoming  of 
eternal  and  consolatory  hope. 

'And  my  wife  and  I,'  resumed  the  ex-professor,  'are 
dressed,  you  see,  as  poor  folks,  for  I  wished  to  go  as  a  mere 
pauper  this  year,  and  applied  for  hospitalisation  in  a  spirit 
of  humility  in  order  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  might  include 
me  among  the  wretched,  her  children — only,  as  I  did  not  wish 
to  take  the  place  of  a  real  pauper,  I  gave  fifty  francsto  the 
HospitaUt6,  and  this,  as  you  are  aware,  gives  one  the  right  to 
have  a  patient  of  one's  own  in  the  pilgrimage.  I  even  know 
my  patient.  He  was  introduced  to  me  at  the  railway  station. 
He  is  Buffering  from  tuberculosis,  it  appears,  and  seemed  to 
me  very  low,  very  low.' 

A  fresh  interval  of  silence  ensued.  'Well,'  said  M. 
Sabathier  at  last, '  may  the  Blessed  Virgin  save  him  also,  she 
who  can  do  everything.  I  shall  be  so  happy,  she  will  have 
loaded  me  with  favours.' 

Then  the  three  men,  isolating  themselves  from  the  others, 
went  on  conversing  together,  at  first  on  medical  subjects,  and 
at  last  diverging  into  a  discussion  on  romanesque  architecture, 
d  propos  of  a  steeple  which  they  had  perceived  on  a  hillside, 
and  which  every  pilgrim  had  saluted  with  a  sign  of  the  cross. 
Swayed  once  more  by  the  habits  of  cultivated  intellect,  the 
young  priest  and  his  two  companions  forgot  themselves 
together  in  the  midst  of  their  fellow-passengers,  all  those 
poor,  suffering,  simple-minded  folk,  whom  wretchedness 
stupefied.  Another  hour  went  by,  two  more  canticles  had 
just  been  sung,  and  the  stations  of  Toury  and  Les  Aubrais 
had  been  left  behind,  when,  at  Beaugency,  they  at  last  ceased 
their  chat,  on  hearing  Sister  Hyacinthe  clap  her  hands  and 
intonate  in  her  fresh,  sonorous  voice  : 

'  Farce,  Dominc,  parce  populo  tuo.' 

And  then  the  chant  went  on ;  all  voices  became  mingled 
in  that  ever-surging  wave  of  prayer  which  stilled  pain,  excited 
hope,  and  little  by  Utile  penetrated  the  entire  being,  harassed 
by  the  haunting  thought  of  the  grace  and  cure  which  one  and 
all  were  going  to  seek  so  far  away. 

However,  as  Pierre  sat  down  again,  he  saw  that  Marie  was 
very  pale,  and  had  her  eyes  closed.    By  the  painful  contraction 


of  her  features  he  could  tell  that  she  was  not  sleeping.  '  Are 
you  in  greater  suffering  ? '  he  asked. 

'  Yes,  yes,  I  suffer  dreadfully.  I  shall  never  last  till  the 
end.    It  is  this  incessant  jolting.' 

She  moaned,  raised  her  eyelids,  and,  half  fainting,  re- 
mained in  a  sitting  posture,  her  eyes  turned  on  the  other 
sufferers.  In  the  adjoining  compartment.  La  Grivotte,  hitherto 
stretched  out,  scarce  breathing,  like  a  corpse,  had  just  raised 
herself  up  in  front  of  M.  Sabatliier.  She  was  a  taU,  slipshod, 
Bingular-looHng  creature  of  over  thirty,  with  a  round,  ravaged 
face,  which  her  frizzy  hair  and  flaming  eyes  rendered  almost 
pretty.     She  had  reached  the  third  stage  of  phthisis. 

'Eh,  mademoiselle,'  she  said,  addressing  herself  in  a 
hoarse,  indistinct  voice  to  Marie, '  how  nice  it  would  be  if  we 
could  only  doze  off  a  little.  But  it  can't  be  managed ;  all 
these  wheels  keep  on  whirling  round  and  round  in  one's  head.' 

Then,  although  it  fatigued  her  to  speak,  she  obstinately 
went  on  talking,  volunteering  particulars  about  herself.  She 
was  a  mattress-maker,  and  with  one  of  her  aunts  had  long 
gone  from  yard  to  yard  at  Bercy  to  comb  and  sew  up  mat- 
tresses. And,  indeed,  it  was  to  the  pestilential  wool  which 
she  had  combed  in  her  youth  that  she  ascribed  her  malady. 
For  five  years  past  she  had  been  making  the  round  of  the 
hospitals  of  Paris,  and  she  spoke  famUiarly  of  all  the  great 
doctors.  It  was  the  Sisters  of  Charity,  at  the  Lariboisiere 
hospital,  who,  finding  that  she  had  a  passion  for  religious 
ceremonies,  had  completed  her  conversion,  and  convinced  her 
that  the  Virgin  awaited  her  at  Lourdes  to  cure  her. 

'  I  certainly  need  it,'  said  she.  '  The  doctors  say  that  I 
have  one  lung  done  for,  and  that  the  other  one  is  scarcely  any 
better.  There  are  great  big  holes  you  know.  At  first  I  only 
felt  bad  between  the  shoulders  and  spat  up  some  froth.  But 
then  I  got  thin,  and  became  a  dreadful  sight.  And  now  I'm 
always  in  a  sweat,  and  cough  tUl  I  think  I'm  going  to  bring 
my  heart  up.  And  I  can  no  longer  spit.  And  I  haven't  the 
strength  to  stand,  you  see.    I  can't  eat.' 

A  stifling  sensation  made  her  pause,  and  she  became 

'  All  the  same  I  prefer  being  in  my  skin  instead  of  in  that 
of  the  Brother  in  the  compartment  behind  you.  He  has 
the  same  complaint  as  I  have,  but  he  is  in  a  worse  state  than 

She  was  mistaken,    In  the  farther  compartment,  beyond 


Marie,  there  was  indeed  a  young  missionary,  Brother  Isidore, 
who  was  lying  on  a  mattress  and  could  not  be  seen,  since  he 
was  unable  to  raise  even  a  finger.  But  he  was  not  suffering 
from  phthisis.  He  was  dying  of  inflammation  of  the  liver, 
contracted  in  Senegal,  Very  long  and  lank,  he  had  a  yellow 
face,  with  skin  as  dry  and  lifeless  as  parchment.  The  abscess 
which  had  formed  in  his  Hver  had  ended  by  breaking  out  ex- 
ternally, and  amidst  the  continuous  shivering  of  fever,  vomit- 
ing, and  delirium,  suppuration  was  exhausting  him.  His  eyes 
alone  were  stiU  alive,  eyes  full  of  unextinguishable  love,  whose 
flame  Ughted  up  his  expiring  face,  a  peasant  fece  such  as 
painters  have  given  to  the  crucified  Christ,  common,  but  ren- 
dered sublime  at  moments  by  its  expression  of  faith  and  passion. 
He  was  a  Breton,  the  last  puny  child  of  an  over-numerous 
family,  and  had  left  his  little  share  of  land  to  his  elder  brothers. 
One  of  his  sisters,  Marthe,  older  than  himself  by  a  couple  of 
years,  accompanied  him.  She  had  been  in  service  in  Paris, 
an  insignificant  maid-of-aU-work,  but  withal  so  devoted  to  her 
brother  that  she  had  left  her  situation  to  f oUow  him,  subsisting 
soantUy  on  her  petty  savings. 

'  I  was  lying  on  the  platform,'  resumed  La  Grivotte, '  when 
he  was  put  in  the  carriage.  There  were  four  men  carrying 
him ' 

But  she  was  unable  to  speak  any  further,  for  just  then  an 
attack  of  coughing  shook  and  threw  her  back  upon  the  seat. 
She  was  suffocating,  and  the  red  flush  on  her  cheekbones 
turned  blue.  Sister  Hyacinthe,  however,  immediately  raised 
her  head  and  wiped  her  lips  with  a  linen  cloth,  which  became 
spotted  with  blood.  At  the,  same  time  Madame  de  Jonquiere 
gave  her  attention  to  a  patient  in  front  of  her,  who  had  just 
fainted.  She  was  called  Madame  Vetu,  and  was  the  wife  of  a 
petty  clockmaker  of  the  Mouffetard  district,  who  had  not  been 
able  to  shut  up  his  shop  in  order  to  accompany  her  to  Lourdes. 
And  to  niake  sure  that  she  would  be  cared  for  she  had  sought 
and  obtained  hospitaKsaUon.  The  fear  of  death  was  bringing 
her  back  to  religion,  although  she  had  not  set  foot  in  church 
since  her  first  communion.  She  knew  that  she  was  lost,  that 
a  cancer  in  the  chest  was  eating  into  her ;  and  she  already 
had  the  haggard,  orange-hued  mark  of  the  cancerous  patient. 
Smce  the  beginning  of  the  journey  she  had  not  spoken  a  word, 
but,  suffering  terribly,  had  remained  with  her  lips  tightly 
closed.  Then  all  at  once,  she  had  swooned  away  after  an 
attack  of  vomitiqg. 


•  It  is  unbearable  1 '  murmured  Madame  de  la  JonquiSre, 
who  herself  felt  faint;  'we  must  let  in  a  little  fresh 

Sister  Hyacinthe  was  just  then  laying  La  Grivotte  to  rest 
on  her  pillows.  '  Certainly,'  said  she, '  we  will  open  the  win- 
dow for  a  few  moments.  But  not  on  this  side,  for  I  am  afraid 
we  might  have  a  fresh  fit  of  coughing.  Open  the  window  on 
your  side,  madame.' 

The  heat  was  still  increasing,  and  the  occupants  of  the 
carriage  were  stifling  in  that  heavy  evil-smelling  atmosphere. 
The  pure  air  which  came  in  when  the  window  was  opened 
brought  relief  however.  For  a  moment  there  were  other 
duties  to  be  attended  to,  a  clearance  and  cleansing.  The 
Sister  emptied  the  basins  out  of  the  window,  whilst  the  lady- 
hospitaller  wiped  the  shaking  floor  with  a  sponge.  Next, 
things  had  to  be  set  in  order  ;  and  then  came  a  fresh  anxiety, 
for  the  fourth  patient,  a  slender  girl  whose  face  was  entirely 
covered  by  a  black  fichu,  and  who  had  not  yet  moved,  was 
saying  that  she  felt  hungry. 

With  quiet  devotion  Madame  de  JonquiSre  immediately 
tendered  her  services.  '  Don't  you  trouble,  Sister,'  she  said, 
'  I  will  cut  her  bread  into  little  bits  for  her.' 

Marie,  with  the  need  she  felt  of  diverting  her  mind  from 
her  own  sufferings,  had  already  begun  to  take  an  interest  in 
the  motionless  sufferer  whose  countenance  was  hidden  by 
that  black  veil,  for  she  not  unnaturally  suspected  that  it  was 
a  case  of  some  distressing  facial  sore.  She  had  merely  been 
told  that  the  patient  was  a  servant,  which  was  true,  but  the 
poor  creature,  a  native  of  Picardy,  named  Elise  Bouquet,  had 
been  obliged  to  leave  her  situation,  and  seek  a  home  with  a 
sister  who  iU-treated  her,  for  no  hospital  would  take  her  in. 
Extremely  devout,  she  had  for  many  months  been  possessed 
by  an  ardent  desire  to  go  to  Lourdes. 

Whilst  Marie,  with  dread  in  her  heart,  waited  for  the  fichu 
to  be  moved  aside,  Madame  de  Jonquiere,  having  out  some 
bread  into  small  pieces,  inquired  maternally  :  '  Are  they  small 
enough  ?    Can  you  put  them  into  your  mouth  ? ' 

Thereupon  a  hoarse  voice  growled  confused  words  under 
the  black  fichu  :  '  Yes,  yes,  madame.'  And  at  last  the  veil 
fell  and  Marie  shuddered  with  horror. 

It  was  a  case  of  lupus  which  had  preyed  upon  the  unhappy 
woman's  nose  and  mouth.  Ulceration  had  spread,  and 
was  hourly  spreading — in  short,  all' the  hideous  peculiarities 


of  this  terrible  disease  were  in  full  process  of  developttieni, 
almost  obliterating  the  traces  of  what  once  were  pleasing 
womanly  lineaments. 

'  Oh,  look  Pierre  1 '  Marie  murmured,  trembling. 

The  priest  in  his  turn  shuddered  as  he  beheld  Elisa 
Eouquet  cautiously  slipping  the  tiny  pieces  of  bread  into  her 
poor  shapeless  mouth.  Everyone  in  the  carriage  had  turned 
pale  at  sight  of  the  awful  apparition.  And  the  same  thought 
ascended  from  all  those  hope-inflated  souls.  Ah !  Blessed 
Virgin,  Powerful  Virgin,  what  a  miracle  indeed  if  such  an  ill 
were  cured  1 

'  We  must  not  think  of  ourselves,  my  children,  if  we  wish 
to  get  well,'  resumed  Sister  Hyacinthe,  who  still  retained  her 
encouraging  smUe. 

And  then  she  made  them  say  the  second  chaplet,  the  five 
sorrowful  mysteries :  Jesus  in  the  Garden  of  Olives,  Jesus 
scourged,  Jesus  crowned  with  thorns,  Jesus  carrying  the  cross, 
and  Jesus  crucified.  Afterwards  came  the  canticle :  '  In  thy 
help,  Virgin,  do  I  put  my  trust.' 

They  had  just  passed  through  Blois  ;  for  three  long  hours 
they  had  been  rolling  onward  ;  and  Marie,  who  had  averted 
her  eyes  from  Elise  Eouquet,  now  turned  them  upon  a  man 
who  occupied  a  corner  seat  in  the  compartment  on  her  left, 
that  in  which  Brother  Isidore  was  lying.  She  had  noticed 
this  man  several  times  already.  Poorly  clad  in  an  old  black 
frock-coat,  he  looked  stiU  young,  although  his  sparse  beard 
was  already  turning  grey ;  and,  short  and  emaciated,  he 
seemed  to  experience  great  suffering,  his  fleshless,  livid  face 
being  covered  with  sweat.  However,  he  remained  motionless, 
ensconced  in  his  corner,  speaking  to  nobody,  but  staring 
straight  before  him  with  dilated  eyes.  And  all  at  once  Marie 
noticed  that  his  eyehds  were  falling,  and  that  he  was  fainting 

She  thereupon  drew  Sister  Hyacinthe's  attention  to  him : 
•Look,  Sister  1  One  would  thmk  that  that  gentleman  is 
dangerously  ill.' 

'  Which  one,  my  dear  child  ?  ' 

'  That  one,  over  there,  with  his  head  thrown  back.* 

General  excitement  followed,  all  the  healthy  pilgrims  rose 
up  to  look,  and  it  occurred  to  Madame  de  Jonqni^re  to  call  to 
Marthe,  Brother  Isidore's  sister,  and  tell  her  to  tap  the  man's 

'  Question  him,*  she  added ;  '  ask  what  ails  him.? 


Marthe  dr&w  near,  shook  the  man  and  questioned  him. 

But  instead  of  an  answer  only  a  rattle  came  from  his 
throat,  and  his  eyes  remained  closed. 

,  Then  a' frightened  voice  was  heard  saying, '  I  think  he  is 
going  to  die.' 

The  dread  increased,  words  flew  about,  advice  was  tendered 
from  one  to  the  other  end  of  the  carriage.  Nobody  knew  the 
man.  He  had  certainly  not  obtaiaed  hospitalisation,  for  no 
white  card  was  hanging  from  his  neck.  Somebody  related, 
however,  that  he  had  seen  him  arrive,  dragging  himself 
along,  but  three  minutes  or  so  before  the  train  started ; 
and  that  he  had  remained  quite  motionless,  scarce  breathing, 
ever  since  he  had  flung  himself  with  an  air  of  intense  weari- 
ness into  that  comer,  where  he  was  now  apparently  dying. 
His  ticket  was  at  last  seen  protruding  from  under  the  band  of 
an  old  silk  hat  which  hung  from  a  peg  near  him. 

'  Ah,  he  is  breathing  again  now ! '  Sister  Hyacinthe 
suddenly  exclaimed.    '  Ask  him  his  name.' 

However,  on  being  again  questioned  by  Marthe,  the  man 
merely  gave  vent  to  a  low  plaint,  an  exclamation  scarcely 
articidat«d,  '  Oh,  how  I  suffer  1 ' 

And  thenceforth  that  was  the  only  answer  that  could  be 
obtained  from  him.  With  reference  to  everything  that  they 
wished  to  know,  who  he  was,  whence-  he  came,  what  hia 
illness  was,  what  could  be  done  for  him,  he  gave  no  informa- 
tion, but  still  and  ever  continued  moaning,  '  Oh,  how  I  suffer 
— ^how  I  suffer ! ' 

Sister  Hyacinthe  grew  restless  with  impatience.  Ah,  if 
she  had  only  been  in  the  same  compartment  with  him  1  And 
she  resolved  that  she  would  change  her  seat  at  the  first 
station  they  should  stop  at.  Only  there  would  be  no  stoppage 
for  a  long  time.  The  position  was  beconaing  terrible,  the 
more  so  as  the  man's  head  again  feU  back. 

'  He  is  dying,  he  is  dyiag ! '  repeated  the  frightened 

What  was  to  be  done,  mon  Dieu  ?  The  Sister  was  aware 
that  one  of  the  Fathers  of  the  Assumption,  Father  Massias,. 
was  in  the  train  with  the  Holy  Oils,  ready  to  administer 
extreme  unction  to  the  dying;  for  every  year  some  of  the 
patients  passed  away  during  the  journey.  But  she  did  not 
dare  to  have  recourse  to  the  alarm  signal.  Moreover,  ia  the 
cantine  van  where  Sister  Saint  Frangois  officiated,  there  was 
a  doctor  with  a  little  medicine  chest.    If  the  sufferer  should 


survive  until  they  reached  Poitiers,  where  theM  would  be  hall 
an  hour's  stoppage,  all  possible  help  might  be  given  to  him. 
But  on  the  other  hand  he  might  suddenly  expu:e.  How- 
ever, they  ended  by  becoming  somewhat  calmer.  The  man, 
although  still  unconscious,  began  to  breathe  in  a  more  regular 
manner,  and  seemed  to  fall  asleep. 

'  To  think  of  it,  to  die  before  getting  there,'  murmured 
Marie  with  a  shudder,  '  to  die  in  sight  of  the  promised  land ! 
And  as  her  father  sought  to  reassure  her  she  added  :  '  I  am 
suffering — I  am  suffering  dreadfully  myself.' 

'  Have  confidence,'  said  Pierre,  '  the  Blessed  Virgin  is 
watching  over  you.' 

She  could  no  longer  remain  seated,  and_  it.  became 
necessary  to  replace  her  in  a  recumbent  position  in  her 
narrow  cofiSn.  Her  father  and  the  priest  had  to  take  every 
precaution  in  doing  so,  for  the  slightest  hurt  drew  a  moan 
from  her.  And  she  lay  there  breathless,  like  one  dead,  her 
face  contracted  by  suffering,  and  surrounded  by  her  regal  fair 
hair.  They  had  now  been  rolling  on,  ever  rolling  on  for 
nearly  four  hours.  And  if  the  carriage  was  so  greatly  shaken, 
with  an  unbearable  spreading  tendency,  it  was  through  being 
at  the  rear  part  of  the  train.  The  coupling  irons  shrieked, 
the  wheels  growled  furiously ;  and  as  it  was  necessary  to 
leave  the  windows  partially  open,  the  dust  came  in,  acrid 
and  burning;  but  it  was  especially  the  heat  which  grew 
terrible,  a  devouring  stormy  heat  falling  from  a  tawny  sky 
which  large  hanging  clouds  had  slowly  covered.  The  hot 
carriages,  those  rolling  boxes  where  the  pilgrims  ate,  and 
drank,  where  the  sick  lay  in  a  vitiated  atmosphere,  amid 
dizzying  moans,  prayers  and  hymns,  became  like  so  many 

And  Marie  was  not  the  only  one  whose  condition  had  been 
aggravated ;  others  also  were  suffering  from  the  journey. 
Besting  in  the  lap  of  her  despairing  mother,  who  gazed  at  her 
with  large,  tear-blurred  eyes,  little  Rose  had  ceased  to  stir, 
and  had  grown  so  pale  that  Madame  Maze  had  twice  leant 
forward  to  feel  her  hands,  fearful  lest  she  should  find  them 
cold.  At  each  moment  also  Madame  Sabathier  had  to  move 
her  husband's  legs,  for  their  weight  was  so  great,  said  he,  that 
it  seemed  as  if  his  hips  were  being  torn  from  him.  Brother 
Isidore  too  had  just  begun  to  cry  out,  emerging  from  his 
accustomed  torpor ;  and  his  sister  had  only  been  able  to 
assuage  his  sufferings  by  raising  him,  and  clasping  him  io 


her  arms.  La  Grivotte  seemed  to  be  asleep,  but  a  continuous 
hiccoughing  shook  her,  and  a  tiny  streamlet  of  blood  dribbled 
from  her  mouth.  Madame  Vetu  had  again  vomited,  EHse 
Bouquet  no  longer  thought  of  hiding  the  frightful  sore  open 
on  her  face.  And  from  the  man  yonder,  breathing  hard, 
there  still  came  a  lugubrious  rattle,  as  though  he  were  at 
every  moment  on  the  point  of  expiring.  In  vain  did  Madame 
de  Jonquiere  and  Sister  Hyacinthe  lavish  their  attentions  on 
the  patients,  they  could  but  slightly  assuage  so  much  suffering. 
At  times  it  all  seemed  like  an  e'rfl  dream — that  carriage  of 
wretchedness  and  pain,  hurried  along  at  express  speed,  with  a 
continuous  shaking  and  jolting  which  made  everything  hang- 
ing from  the  pegs— the  old  clothes,  the  worn-out  baskets 
mended  with  bits  of  string — swing  to  and  fro  incessantly. 
And  in  the  compartment  at  the  far  end,  the  ten  female 
pilgrims,  some  old,  some  young,  and  all  pitifully  ugly,  sang  on 
without  a  pause  in  cracked  voices,  shrill  and  dreary. 

Then  Pierre  began  to  think  of  the  other  carriages  of  the 
train,  that  white  train  which  conveyed  most,  if  not  all,  of  the 
more  seriously  afflicted  patients ;  these  carriages  were  rolling 
along,  all  displaying  similar  scenes  of  suffering  among  the 
three  hundred  sick  and  five  hundred  healthy  pilgrims  crowded 
within  them.  And  afterwards  he  thought  of  the  other  trains 
which  were  leaving  Paris  that  day,  the  grey  train  and  the 
blue  train'  which  had  preceded  the  white  one,  the  green 
train,  the  yellow  train,  the  pink  train,  the  orange  train  which 
were  following  it.  From  hour  to  hour  trains  set  out  from 
one  to  the  other  end  of  France.  And  he  thought,  too,  of 
those  which  that  same  morning  had  started  from  Orleans, 
Le  Mans,  Poitiers,  Bordeaux,  Marseilles,  and  Carcassonne. 
Coming  from  all  parts,  trains  were  rushing  across  that  land 
of  France  at  the  same  hour,  all  directing  their  course  yonder 
towards  the  holy  Grotto,  bringing  thitty  thousand  patients 
and  pilgrims  to  the  Virgin's  feet.  And  he  reflected  that  other 
days  of  the  year  witnessed  a  like  rush  of  human  beings,  that 
not  a  week  went  by  without  Lourdes  beholding  the  arrival 
of  some  pilgrimage ;  that  it  was  not  merely  France  which  set 
out  on  the  march,  but  all  Europe,  the  whole  world  ;  that  in 
certain  years  of  great  religious  fervour  there  had  been  three 

'  Different-coloured  tickets  are  issued  for  these  trains ;  it  is  fo» 
this  reason  that  they  are  called  th«  white,  blue,  and  grey  trains,  &o. — 



hundred  thousand,  and  even  five  hundred  thousand,  pilgrims 
and  patients  streaming  to  the  spot. 

,  Pierre  fancied  that  he  could  hear  those  flying  trains,  those 
trains  from  everywhere,  all  converging  towards  the  same 
rooky  cavity  where  the  tapers  were  blazing.  They  all  rumbled 
loudly  amid  the  cries  of  pain  and  snatches  of  hymns  wafted 
from  their  carriages.  They  were  the  roUing  hospitals  of 
disease  at  its  last  stage,  of  human  suffering  rushing  to  the 
hope  of  cure,  furiously  seeking  consolation  between  attacks  of 
increased  severity,  with  the  ever-present  threat^  of  death — 
death  hastened,  supervening  under  awful  conditions,  amidst 
the  mob-Uke  scramble.  They  rolled  on,  they  rolled  on  again 
and  again,  they  rolled  on  without  a  pause,  carrjdng  _th« 
wretchedness  of  this  world  on  its  way  to  the  divine  illusion, 
the  health  of  the  infirm,  the  consolation  of  the  afflicted. 

And  immense  pity  overflowed  from  Pierre's  heart,  human 
compassion  for  all  the  suffering  and  all  the  tears  that  con- 
sumed weak  and  naked  man.  He  was  sad  unto  death  and 
ardent  charity  burnt  within  him,  the  unextinguishable  flame 
as  it  were  of  his  fraternal  feeliJags  towards  all  things  and 

When  they  left  the  station  of  Saint  Pierre  des  Corps  at 
half -past  ten,  Sister  Hyaointhe  gave  the  signal,  and  they  recited 
the  third  chaplet,  the  five  glorious  mysteries,  the  Eesurrection 
of  Our  Lord,  the  Ascension  of  Our  Lord,  the  Mission  of  the 
Holy  Ghost,  the  Assumption  of  the  Most  Blessed  Virgin,  the 
Crowning  of  the  Most  Blessed  Virgin.  And  afterwards  they 
Bang  the  canticle  of  Bernadette,  that  long,  long  chant,  com- 
posed of  six  times  ten  couplets,  to  which  the  Angelic  Saluta- 
tion, ever  recurring,  serves  as  a  refrain — a  prolonged  lullaby 
slowly  besetting  one  until  it  ends  by  penetrating  one's  entire 
being,  transporting  one  into  ecstatic  sleep,  in  delicious  expec- 
tancy of  a  miracle. 



The  green  landscapes  of  Poitou  were  now  defiling  before 
them,  and  Abb6  Pierre  Froment,  gazing  out  of  the  window, 
watched  the  trees  fly  away  till,  little  by  little,  he  ceased  to 
distinguish  them.    A  steeple  appeared  and  thgn  vanished, 


and  all  the  pilgrims  crossed  themselves.  They  would  not 
reach  Poitiers  until  twelve-thirty-five,  and  the  train  was  still 
rolling  on  ^mid  the  growing  weariness  of  that  oppressive, 
stormy  day.  Falling  into  a  deej)  reverie,  the  young  priest  no 
longer  heard  the  words  of  the  canticle,  which  sounded  in  his 
ears  merely  like  a  slow,  wavy  lullaby. 

Forgetfulness  of  the  present  had  come  upon  him,  an 
awakening  of  the  past  filled  his  whole  being.  He  was  re- 
ascending  the  stream  of  memory,  reascending  it  to  its  source. 
He  again  beheld  the  house  at  Neuilly,  where  he  had  been 
born  and  where  he  stiU  Hved,  that  home  of  peace  and  toil, 
with  its  garden  planted  with  a  few  fine  trees,  and  parted  by  a 
quickset  hedge  and  palisade  from  the  garden  of  the  neigh- 
bouring house,  which  was  similar  to  his  own.  He  was  again 
three,  perhaps  four,  years  old,  and  round  a  table,  shaded  by 
the  big  horse-chestnut  tree,  he  once  more  beheld  his  father, 
his  mother,  and  his  elder  brother  at  dijeuner.  To  his  father, 
Michel  Froment,  he  could  give  no  distinct  lineaments,;  he 
pictured  him  but  faintly,  vaguely,  renowned  as  an  illustrious 
chemist,  bearing  the  title  of  Member  of  the  Institute,  and 
leading  a  cloistered  life  in  the  laboratory  which  he  had  installed 
in  that  secluded,  deserted  suburb.  However  he  could  plainly 
see  first  his  brother  Guillaume,  then  fourteen  years  of  age, 
whom  some  hohday  had  brought  from  coUege  that  morning, 
and  then  and  even  more  vividly  his  mother,  so  gentle  and 
so  quiet,  with  eyes  so  full  of  active  kindliness.  Later 
on  he  learnt  what  anguish  had  racked  that  religious  soul, 
that  believing  woman  who,  from  esteem  and  gratitude, 
had  resignedly  accepted  marriage  with  an  unbeliever,  her 
senior  by  fifteen  years,  to  whom  her  relatives  were  indebted 
for  great  services.  He,  Pierre,  the  tardy  offspring  of  this 
union,  born  when  his  father  was  already  near  his  fiftieth  year, 
had  only  known  his  mother  as  a  respectful,  conquered  woman 
in  the  presence  of  her  husband,  whom  she  had  learnt  to  love 
passionately,  with  the  frightful  torment  of  knowing,  however, 
that  he  was  doomed  to  perdition.  And,  aU  at  once,  another 
memory  flashed  upon  the  young  priest,  the  terrible  memory 
of  the  day  when  his  father  had  died,  Idlled  in  his  laboratory 
by  an  accident,  the  explosion  of  a  retort.  He,  Pierre,  had 
then  been  five  years  old,  and  he  remembered  the  shghtest 
incidents — his  mother's  cry  when  she  had  found  the  shattered 
body  among  the  remnants  of  the  chemical  appliances,  then 
her  terror,  her  sobs,  her  prayers  at  the  idea  that  God  had 



slain  the  unbeliever,  damned  him  for  evermore.  Not  daring 
to  burn  his  books  and  papers,  she  had  contented  herself  with 
locking  up  the  laboratory,  which  henceforth  nobody  entered. 
And  from  that  moment,  haunted  by  a  vision  of  hell,  she 
had  had  but  one  idea,  to  possess  herself  of  her  second  son 
who  was  still  so  young,  to  give  him  a  strictly  religious 
training,  and  through  him  to  ransom  her  husband, — secure 
his  forgiveness  from  God.  Guillaume,  her  elder  boy,  had 
abeady  ceased  to  belong  to  her,  having  grown  up  at  college, 
where  he  had  been  won  over  by  the  ideas  of  the  century  ;  but 
she  resolved  that  the  other,  the  younger  one,  should  not 
leave  the  house,  but  should  have  a  priest  as  tutor  ;  and  her 
secret  dream,  her  consuming  hope,  was  that  she  might  some 
day  see  him  a  priest  himself,  saying  his  first  mass  and 
solacing  souls  whom  the  thought  of  eternity  tortured. 

Then,  between  green,  leafy  boughs,  flecked  with  sunlight, 
another  figure  rose  vividly  before  Pierre's  eyes.  He  suddenly 
beheld  Marie  de  Guersaiat  as  he  had  seen  her  one  morning 
through  a  gap  in  the  hedge  dividing  the  two  gardens.  M.  de 
Guersaint,  who  belonged  to  the  petty  Norman  noblesse,  was  a 
combination  of  architect  and  inventor ;  and  he  was  at  that 
time  busy  with  a  scheme  of  model  dwellings  for  the  poor,  to 
which  churches  and  schools  were  to  be  attached ;  an  affair  of 
considerable  magnitude,  planned  none  too  well,  however,  and 
in  which,  with  his  customary  impetuosity,  the  lack  of  foresight 
of  an  imperfect  artist,  he  was  risking  the  three  hundred  thou- 
sand francs  that  he  possessed.  A  similarity  of  religious  faith 
had  drawn  Madame  de  Guersaint  and  Madame  Froment 
together  ;  but  the  former  was  altogether  a  superior  woman, 
perspicuous  and  rigid,  with  an  iron  hand  which  alone  pre- 
vented her  household  from  ghding  to  a  catastrophe ;  and  she 
was  bringing  up  her  two  daughters,  Blanche  and  Marie,  in 
principles  of  narrow  piety,  the  elder  one  already  being  as 
grave  as  herself,  whilst  the  younger,  albeit  very  devout,  was 
still  fond  of  play,  with  an  intensity  of  life  within  her,  which 
found  vent  in  gay  peals  of  sonorous  laughter.  From  their 
early  childhood  Pierre  and  Marie  played  together,  the  hedge 
was  ever  being  crossed,  the  two  families  constantly  mingled. 
And  on  that  clear  smishiny  morning,  when  he  pictured  her 
parting  the  leafy  branches,  she  was  already  ten  years  old.  He, 
who  was  sixteen,  was  to  enter  the  seminary  on  the  following 
Tuesday.  Never  had  she  seemed  to  him  so  pretty.  Her  hair, 
of  a  pure  golden  hue,  was  so  long  that  wberj  it  was  let  down 


it  sufficed  to  clothe  her.  Well  did  he  remember  her  face  as 
it  had  then  been,  with  round  cheeks,  blue  eyes,  red  mouth, 
and  skin  of  dazzling,  snowy  whiteness.  She  was  indeed  as 
gay  and  brilliant  as  the  sun  itself,  a  transplendency.  Yet 
there  were  tears  at  the  corners  of  her  eyes,  for  she  was  aware 
of  his  coming  departure.  They  sat  down  together  at  the  far 
end  of  the  garden,  in  the  shadow  cast  by  the  hedge.  Their 
hands  mingled,  and  their  hearts  were  very  heavy.  They  had, 
however,  never  exchanged  any  vows  amid  their  pastimes,  for 
their  innocence  was  absolute.  But  now,  on  the  eve  of  separa- 
tion, their  mutual  tenderness  rose  to  their  lips,  and  they  spoke 
without  knowing,  swore  that  they  would  ever  think  of  one 
another,  and  find  one  another  again,  some  day,  even  as  one 
meets  in  heaven  to  be  very,  very  happy;  Then,  without 
understanding  how  it  happened,  they  clasped  each  other 
tightly,  to  the  point  of  suffocation,  and  kissed  each  other's 
face,  weeping  the  while  hot  tears.  And  it  was  that  delightful 
memory  which  Pierre  had  ever  carried  with  him,  which  he 
felt  alive  within  him  still,  after  so  many  years,  and  after  so 
many  painful  renunciations. 

Just  then  a  more  violent  shock  roused  him  from  his 
reverie.  He  turned  his  eyes  upon  the  carriage  and  vaguely 
espied  the  suffering  beings  it  contained-— Madame  Maze  mo- 
tionless, overwhelmed  with  grief ;  little  Eose  gently  moaning 
in  her  mother's  lap ;  La  Grivotte,  whom'  a  hoarse  cough  was 
choking.  For  a  moment  Sister  Hyacinthe's  gay  face  shone 
out  amidst  the  whiteness'  of  her  coif  and  wimple,  dominating 
aU  the  others.  The  painful  journey  was  continuing,  with  a 
ray  of  divine  hope  still  and  ever  shining  yonder.  Then  every- 
thing slowly  vanished  from  Pierre's  eyes  as  a  fresh  wave  of 
memory  brought  the  past  back  from  afar ;  and  nothing  of  the 
present  remained  save  the  lulling  hymn,  the  indistinct  voices 
of  dreamland,  emerging  from  the  invisible. 

Henceforth  he  was  at  the  seminary.  The  class-rooms, 
the  recreation  ground  with  its  trees,  rose  up  clearly  before 
him.  But  all  at  once  he  only  beheld,  as  in  a  mirror,  the 
youthful  face  which  had  then  been  his,  and  he  contemplated 
it  and  scrutinised  it,  as  though  it  had  been  the  face  of  a 
Btra,nger.  Tall  and  slender,  he  had  an  elongated  visage,  with 
an  unusually  developed  forehead,  lofty  and  straight  like  a 
tower ;  whilst  his  jaws  tapered,  ending  in  a  small  refined 
chin.  He  seemed,  in  fact,  to  be  all  brains;  his  mouth, 
tather  large,  alone  retained  an  expression  of  tenderness.. 


Indeed,  when  his  usually  serious  face  relaxed,  his  mouth  and 
eyes  acquired  an  exceedingly  soft  expression,  betokening  an 
unsatisfied,  hungry  desire  to_Joxe,  devote  oneself,  and  live. 
But,  immediately  afterwards,  the  look  ofjntelleclual  pasapn 
would  come  back  again,  that  intelleotuahty  which  had  ever 
consumed  him  with  an  anxiety  to  understand  and  know. 
And  it  was  with  surprise  that  he  now  recalled  those  years  of 
seminary  life.  How  was  it  that  he  had  so  long  been  able  to 
,  accept  the  rude  discipline  of  blind  faith,  of  obedient  belief 
/in  everything  without  the  slightest  examination?  It  had 
been  required  of  him  that  he  should  absolutely  surrender  his 
reasoning  faculties,  and  he  had  striven  to  do  so,  had  succeeded 
indeed  in  stifling  his  torturing  need  of  truth.  Doubtless  he 
had  been  softened,  weakened  by  his  mother's  tears,  had  been 
possessed  by  the  sole  deske  to  afford  her  the  great  happiness 
she  dreamt  of.  Yet  now  he  remembered  certain  quiverings 
of  revolt ;  he  found  in  the  depths  of  his  mind  the  memory  of 
nights  which  he  had  spent  in  weeping  without  knowing  why, 
nights  peopled  with  vague  images,  nights  through  which 
galloped  the  free,  virile  life  of  the  world,  when  Marie's  face 
incessantly  returned  to  him,  such  as  he  had  seen  it  one 
morning,  dazzling  and  bathed  in  tears,  while  she  embraced 
him  with  her  whole  soul.  And  that  alone  now  remained; 
his  years  of  religious  study  with  their  monotonous  lessons, 
their  ever  similar  exercises  and  ceremonies,  had  flown  away 
into  the  same  haze,  into  a  vague  half-hght,  fuU  of  mortsi 

Then,  just  as  the  train  had  passed  through  a  station  at 
full  speed,  with  the  sudden  uproar  of  its  rush,  there  arose 
within  him  a  succession  of  confused  visions.  He  had  noticed 
a  large  deserted  enclosure,  and  fancied  that  he  could  see  him- 
self within  it  at  twenty  years  of  age.  His  reverie  was  wander- 
ing. An  indisposition  of  rather  long  duration  had,  however, 
at  one  time  interrupted  his  studies,  and  led  to  his  being  sent 
into  the  country.  He  had  remained  for  a  long  time  without 
seeing  Marie  ;  during  his  vacations  spent  at  Neuilly  he  had 
twice  failed  to  meet  her,  for  she  was  almost  always  travelling. 
He  knew  that  she  was  very  ill,  in  consequence  of  a  fall  from 
a  horse  when  she  was  thirteen,  a  critical  moment  in  a 
girl's  life ;  and  her  despairing  mother,  perplexed  by  the  con- 
tradictory advice  of  medical  men,  was  taMng  her  each  year 
to  a  different  watering-place.  Then  he  learnt  the  startling 
news  of  the  sudden   tragical  death  of  that  mother,  who 


was  so  severe  and  yet  so  useful  to  her  kin.  Slie  had  been 
carried  off  in  five  days  by  inflammation  of  the  lungs,  which 
she  had  contracted  one  evening  whilst  she  was  out  walking 
at  La  Bourboule,  through  having  taken  off  her  mantle  to 
place  it  round  the  shoulders  of  Marie,  who  had  been  conveyed 
thither  for  treatment.  It  had  been  necessary  that  the  father 
should  at  once  start  off  to  fetch  his  daughter,  who  was  mad 
with  grief,  and  the  corpse  of  his  wife,  who  had  been  so 
suddenly  torn  from  him.  And  unhappily,  after  losing 
her,  the  affairs  of  the  family  went  from  bad  to  worse  in 
the  hands  of  this  architect,  who,  without  counting,  flung  his 
fortune  into  the  yawning  gulf  of  his  unsuccessful  enterprises. 
Marie  no  longer  stirred  from  her  couch ;  only  Blanche 
remained  to  manage  the  household,  and  she  had  matters  of 
her  own  to  attend  to,  being  busy  with  the  last  examinations 
which  she  had  to  pass,  the  diplomas  which  she  was  obsti- 
nately intent  on  securing,  foreseeing  as  she  did  that  she 
would  some  day  have  to  earn  her  bread. 

All  at  once,  from  amidst  this  mass  of  confused,  half- 
forgotten  incidents,  Pierre  was  conscious  of  the  rise  of  a  vivid 
vision.  lU  health,  he  remembered,  had  again  compelled  him 
to  take  a  holiday.  He,  had  just  completed  his  twenty-fourth 
year,  he  was  greatly  behindhand,  having  so  far  only  secured 
the  four  minor  orders ;  but  on  his  return  a  sub-deaconship 
would  be  conferred  on  him,  and  an  inviolable  vow  would 
bind  him  for  evermore.  And  the  Guersaints'  little  garden  at 
Neuilly,  whither  he  had  formerly  so  often  gone  to  play,  again 
distinctly  appeared  before  him.  Marie's  couch  had  been 
rolled  under  the  tall  trees  at  the  far  end  of  the  garden  near 
the  hedge,  they  were  alone  together  in  the  sad  peacefulness 
of  an  autumnal  afternoon,  and  he  saw  Marie,-  clad  in  deep 
mourning  for  her  mother  and  reclining  there  with  legs  inert ; 
whilst  he,  also  clad  in  black,  in  a  cassock  already,  sat  near 
her  on  an  iron  garden  chair.  For  five  years  she  had  been 
suflfering.  She  was  now  eighteen,  paler  and  thinner  than 
formerly,  but  stilL  adorable  with  her  regal  golden  hair,  which 
illness  respected.  He  believed  from  what  he  had  heard  that 
she  was  destined  to  remain  infirm,  condemned  never  to 
become  a  woman,  stricken  even  in  her  sex.  The  doctors, 
who  failed  to  agree  respecting  her  case,  had  abandoned  her. 
Doubtless  it  was  she  who  told  him  these  things  that  dreary 
afternoon,  whilst  the  yellow  withered  leaves  rained  upon 
them.    However,  he  could  not  remember  the  words  that  they 


had  spoken ;  her  pale  smile,  her  young  face,  still  so  charming 
though  already  dimmed  by  regretfulness  for  life,  alone  re- 
mained present  with  him.  But  he  realised  that  she  had 
evoked  the  far-off  day  of  their  parting,  on  that  same  spot, 
behind  the  hedge  flecked  with  sunlight ;  and  all  that  was 
already  as  though  dead — their  tears,  their  embrace,  their 
promise  to  find  one  another  some  day  with  a  certainty  of 
happiness.  For  although  they  had  found  one  another  again, 
what  availed  it,  since  she  was  but  a  corpse,  and  he  was  about 
to  bid  farewell  to  the  Hfe  of  the  world?  As  the  doctors 
condemned  her,  as  she  would  never  be  woman,  nor  wife, 
nor  mother,  he,  on  his  side,  might  well  renounce  manhood, 
and  annihilate  himself,  dedicate  himself  to  God,  to  Whom 
his  mother  gave  him.  And  he  still  felt  within  him  the 
soft  bitterness  of  that  last  interview :  Marie  smiling  painfully 
at  memory  of  their  ohUdish  play  and  prattle,  and  speaking  to 
him  of  the  happiness  which  he  would  assuredly  find  in  the 
service  of  God ;  so  penetrated  indeed  with  emotion  at  this 
thought,  that  she  had  made  him  promise  that  he  would  let 
her  hear  him  say  his  first  mass. 

But  the  train  was  passing  the  station  of  Sainte-Maure, 
and  just  then  a  sudden  uproar  momentarily  brought  Pierre's 
attention  back  to  the  carriage  and  its  occupants.  He  fancied 
that  there  had  been  some  fresh  seizure  or  swooning,  but  the 
suffering  faces  that  he  beheld  were  still  the  same,  ever  con- 
tracted by  the  same  expression  of  anxious  waiting  for  the 
divine  succour  which  was  so  slow  in  coming.  M.  Sabathier 
was  vainly  striving  to  get  his  legs  into  a  comfortable  position, 
whilst  Brother  Isidore  raised  a  feeble  continuous  moan  like 
a  dying  child,  and  Madame  YStu,  a  prey  to  terrible  agony, 
devoured  by  her  disease,  sat  motionless,  and  kept  her  Hps 
tightly  closed,  her  face  distorted,  haggard,  and  almost  black. 
The  noise  which  Pierre  had  heard  had  been  occasioned  by 
Madame  de  Jonquiere,  who  whilst  cleansing  a  basin  had 
dropped  the  large  zinc  water-can.  And,  despite  their  tor- 
ment, this  had  made  the  patients  laugh,  like  the  simple  souls 
they  were,  rendered  puerile  by  suffering.  However,  Sister 
Hyacinthe,  who  rightly  called  them  her  children,  children 
whom  she  governed  with  a  word,  at  once  set  them  saying  the 
chaplet  again,  pending  the  Angelus,  which  would  only  be  said 
at  Ch^tellerault,  in  accordance  with  the  predetermined  pro- 
gramme. And  thereupon  the  '  Aves '  followed  one  after  the 
other,  spreading  into  a  confused  murmuring  and  mumbling 


amidst  the  rattling  of  the  coupling  irons  and  noisy  growling 
of  the  ■wheels. 

Pierre  had  meantime  relapsed  into  his  reverie,  and  beheld 
himself  as  he  had  been  at  six  and  twenty,  when  ordaiaed  a 
priest.  Tardy  scruples  had  come  to  him  a  few  days  before 
his  ordination,  a  semi-consciousness  that  he  was  binding 
himself  without  having  clearly  questioned  his  heart  and 
mind.  But  he  had  avoided  doing  so,  living  in  the  dizzy 
bewilderment  of  his  decision,  fancying  that  he  had  lopped  off 
aU.  human  ties  and  feehngs  with  a  voluntary  hatchet  stroke. 
His  flesh  had  surely  died  with  his  childhood's  innocent  -> 
romance,  that  white-skinned  girl  with  golden  hair,  whom  now 
he  never  beheld  otherwise  than  stretched  upon  her  couch  of 
suffering,  her  flesh  as  lifeless  as  his  own.  And  he  had  after- 
wards made  the  sacrifice  of  his  mind,  which  he  then  fancied 
even  an  easier  one,  hoping  as  he  did  that  determination  would 
sufBce  to  prevent  him  from  thinking.  Besides,  it  was  too 
late,  he  could  not  recoil  at  the  last  moment,  and  if  when  he 
pronounced  the  last  solemn  vow  he  felt  a  secret  terror,  an 
indeterminate  but  immense  regret  agitating  him,  he  forgot 
everything,  savouring  a  divine  reward  for  his  efforts,  on  the  ^ 
day  when  he  afforded  his  mother  the  great  and  long-expected 
joy  of  hearing  him  say  his  first  mass. 

He  could  stiU  see  the  poor  woman  in  the  little  Church  of 
Neuilly,  which  she  herself  had  selected,  the  church  where  the 
funeral  service  for  his  father  had  been  celebrated  ;  he  saw  her 
on  that  cold  November  morning,  kneeling  almost  alone  in  the 
dark  little  chapel,  her  hands  hiding  her  face  as  she  continued 
weeping  whilst  he  raised  the  Host.  It  was  there  that  she 
had  tasted  her  last  happiness,  for  she  led  a  sad  and  lonely 
life,  no  longer  seeing  her  elder  son,  who  had  gone  away, 
swayed  by  other  ideas  than  her  own,  bent  on  breaking  off 
all  family  intercourse  since  his  brother  intended  to  enter  the 
Church.'  It  was  said  that  Guillaume,  a  chemist  of  great 
talent,  like  his  father,  but  at  the  same  time  a  Bohemian, 
addicted  to  revolutionary  dreams,  was  living  in  a  little  house 
in  the  suburbs,  where  he  devoted  himself  to  the  dangerous 
study  of  explosive  substances ;  and  folks  added  that  he  was 
living  with  a  woman  who  had  come  no  one  knew  whence. 
This  it  was  which  had  severed  the  last  tie  between  himself 
and  his  mother,  all  piety  and  propriety.  For  three  years 
Pierre  had  not  once  seen  Guillaume,  whom  in  his  childhood 
he  had  worshipped  as  a  kind,  merry,  and  fatherly  big  brother. 


But  there  eame  an  awful  pang  to  his  heart — ^he  once  more 
beheld  his  mother  lying  dead.  This  again  was  a  thunderbolt, 
an  iUness  of  scarcely  three  days'  duration,  a  sudden  passing 
away,  as  in  the  case  of  Madame  de  Guersaint.  One  evening, 
after  a  wild  hunt  for  the  doctor,  he  had  found  her  motionless 
and  quite  white.  She  had  died  during  his  absence  ;  and  his 
lips  had  ever  retained  the  icy  thrill  of  the  last  kiss  that  he 
had  given  her.  Of  everything  else— the  vigil,  the  preparations, 
the  funeral — he  remembered  nothing.  All  that  had  become 
lost  in  the  black  night  of  his  stupor  and  grief,  grief  so 
extreme  that  he  had  almost  died  of  it— seized  with  shivering 
on  his  return  from  the  cemetery,  struck  down  by  a  fever 
which  during  three  weeks  had  kept  him  delirious,  hovering 
between  life  and  death.  His  brother  had  come  and  nursed 
him  and  had  then  attended  to  pecuniary  matters,  dividing 
the  little  inheritance,  leaving  him  the  house  and  a  modest  in- 
come and  taking  his  own  share  in  money.  And  as  soon 
as  Guillaume  had  found  him  out  of  danger  he  had  gone  off 
again,  once  more  vanishing  into  the  unknown.  But  then 
through  what  a  long  convalescence  he,  Pierre,  had  passed, 
buried  as  it  were  in  that  deserted  house.  He  had  done  nothing 
to  detain  Guillaume,  for  he  realised  that  there  was  an  abyss 
between  them.  At  first  the  solitude  had  brought  him 
suffering,  but  afterwards  it  had  grown  very  pleasant,  whether  in 
the  deep  silence  of  the  rooms  which  the  rare  noises  of  the 
street  did  not  disturb,  or  under  the  screening,  shady  foliage 
of  the  httle  garden,  where  he  could  spend  whole  days  without 
seeing  a  soul.  His  favourite  place  of  refuge,  however,  was 
the  old  laboratory,  his  father's  cabinet,  which  his  mother  for 
twenty  years  had  kept  carefully  locked  up,  as  though  to 
immure  within  it  all  the  incredulity  and  damnation  of  the 
past.  And  despite  the  gentleness,  the  respectful  submissive- 
ness  which  she  had  shown  in  former  times,  she  would  per- 
haps have  some  day  ended  by  destroying  aU  her  husband's 
books  and  papers,  had  not  death  so  suddenly  surprised  her. 
Pierre,  however,  had  once  more  had  the  windows  opened,  the 
writing  table  and  the  bookcase  dusted,  and,  installed  in  the 
large  leather  armchair,  he  now  spent  dehcious  hours  there, 
regenerated  as  it  were  by  his  ilhiess,  brought  back  to  hia 
youthful  days  again,  deriving  a  wondrous  intellectual  delight 
from  the  perusal  of  the  books  which  he  came  upon. 

The  only  person  whom  he  remembered  having  received 
during  those  two  months  of  slow  recovery  was  Doctor  Chaa- 


saigne,  an  old  friend  of  his  father's,  a  medical  man  of  real 
merit,  who,  with  the  one  ambition  of  curing  disease,  modestly 
confined  himself  to  the  r6l&  of  the  practitioner.    It  was  in 
vain  that  the  doctor  had  sought  to  save  Madame  Froment, 
but  he  flattered  himself  that  he  had  extricated  the  young 
priest  from  grievous  danger ;  and  he  came  to  see  him  from 
time  to  time,  to  chat  with  him  and  cheer  him,  talking  with 
him  of  his  father,  the  great  chemist,  of  whom  he  recounted 
many  a  charming  anecdote,  many  a  particular  stiU  glowing 
with  the  flame  of  ardent  friendship.     Little  by  little,  amidst 
the  weak  languor  of  convalescence,  the  son  had  thus  beheld 
an  embodiment  of  charming  simplicity,  affection,  and  good 
nature  rising  up  before  him.    It  was  his  father  such  as  he  had 
really  been,  not  the  man  of  stern  science  whom  he  had  pictured 
whilst   listening   to  his  mother.    Certainly  she  had  never 
taught  him  aught  but  respect  for  that  dear  memory ;  but  had 
not  her  husband  been  the  unbeliever,  the  man  who  denied, 
and  made  the  angels  weep,  the  artisan  of  impiety  who  sought 
to  change  the  world  that  God  had  made  ?    And  so  he  had  long 
remained  a  gloomy  vision,  a  spectre  of  damnation  prowling 
about  the  house,  whereas  now  he  became  the  house's  very 
light,  clear  and  gay,  a  worker  consumed  by  a  longing  for  truth, 
who  had  never  desired  anything  but  the  love  and  happiness 
of  all.    For  his  part,  Doctor  Chassaigne,  a  Pyrenean  by  birth, 
born  in  a  far-off  secluded  village  where  folks  still  beUeved  in 
sorceresses,  inclined  rather  towards  religion,  although  he  had 
not  set  his  feet  inside  a  church  during  the  forty  years  that  he 
had  been  living  in  Paris.    However,  his  conviction  was  abso- 
lute :  if  there  were  a  heaven  somewhere  Michel  Froment  was 
assuredly  there,  and  not  merely  there,  but  seated  upon  a 
throne  on  the  Divinity's  right  hand. 

Then  Pierre,  in  a  few  minutes,  again  lived  through  the 
frightful  torment  which,  during  two  long  months,  had  ravaged 
him.  It  was  not  that  he  had  found  controversial  works  of  an 
anti-rehgious  character  in  the  bookcase,  or  that  his  father, 
whose  papers  he  sorted,  had  ever  gone  beyond  his  technical 
studies  as  a  savant.  But,  little  by  little,  despite  himself,  the 
light  of  science  dawned  upon  him,  an  ensemble  of  proven 
phenomena,  which  demolished  dogmas  and  left  within  him 
nothing  of  the  things  which  as  a  priest  he  should  have  believed. 
It  seemed,  in  fact,  as  though  illness  had  renewed  him,  as 
though  he  were  again  beginning  to  live  and  learn,  amid  the 
physical  pleasantness  of  convalescence,  that  still  subsisting 


weakness  which  lent  penetrating  lucidity  to  his  brain.  At  the 
seminary,  by  the  advice  of  his  masters,  he  had  always  kept 
the  spirit  of  inquiry,  his  thirst  for  knowledge,  in  check.  Much 
of  that  which  was  taught  him  there  had  surprised  him  ;  how- 
ever, he  had  succeeded  in  making  the  sacrifice  of  his  mind 
required  of  his  piety.  But  now,  aU  the  laboriously  raised 
scaffolding  of  dogmas  was  swept  away  in  a  revolt  of  that 
sovereign  mind  which  clamoiu'ed  for  its  rights,  and  which  he 
could  no  longer  silence.  Truth'  was  bubbling  up  and  over- 
flowing in  such  an  irresistible  stream  that  he  realised  he  would 
never  succeed  in  lodging  error  in  his  brain  again.  It  was  in- 
deed the  total  and  irreparable  ruin  of  faith.  Although  he  had 
been  able  to  kill  his  flesh  by  renouncing  the  romance  of  his 
youth,  although  he  felt  that  he  had  altogether  mastered  carnal 
passion,  he  now  knew  that  it  would  be  impossible  for  him  to 
/  make  the  sacrifice  of  his  intelligence.  And  he  was  not  mis- 
taken ;  it  was  indeed  his  father  again  springing  to  life  in  the 
depths  of  his  being,  and  at  last  obtaining  the  mastery  in  that 
dual  heredity  in  which,  during  so  many  years,  his  mother  had 
dominated.  The  upper  part  of  his  face,  his  straight,  towering 
brow,  seemed  to  have  risen  yet  higher,  whilst  the  lower  part, 
the  small  chin,  the  affectionate  mouth,  were  becoming  less 
distinct.  However,  he  suffered ;  at  certain  twilight  hours 
when  his  kindliness,  his  need  of  love  awoke,  he  felt  distracted 
-'■with  grief  at  no  longer  believing,  distracted  with  desire  to  be- 
lieve again  ;  and  it  was  necessary  that  the  lighted  lamp  should 
be  brought  in,  that  he  should  see  clearly  around  him  and 
within  him,  before  he  could  recover  the  energy  and  calnmess 
of  reason,  the  strength  of  martyrdom,  the  determination  to 
sacrifice  everything  to  the  peace  of  his  conscience. 

Then  came  the  crisis.  He  was  a  priest  and  he  no  longer 
believed.  This  had  suddenly  yawned  before  him  like  a  bot- 
tomless abyss.  It  was  the  end  of  his  life,  the  collapse  of 
everything.  What  should  he  do  ?  Did  not  simple  rectitude 
require  that  he  should  throw  off  the  cassock  and  return  to  the 
world  ?  But  he  had  seen  some  renegade  priests  and  had  de- 
spised them.  A  married  priest  with  whom  he  was  acquainted 
filled  him  with  disgust.  All  this,  no  doubt,  was  but  a  survival 
of  his  long  reUgious  training.  He  retained  the  notion  that  a 
^priest  cannot,  must  not,  weaken ;  the  idea  that  when  one  has 
dedicated  oneself  to  God  one  cannot  take  possession  of  oneself 
again.  Possibly,  also,  he  felt  that  he  was  too  plainly  branded, 
too  different  from  other  men  already,  to  prove  otherwise  than 


awkwaid  and  unwelcome  among  them.  Since  he  had  been 
fint  nff  from  them  he  would  remain  apart  in  his  grievous  pride. 
And,  after  days  of  anguish,  days  of  struggle  incessantly  renewed, 
in  which  his  thirst  for  happiness  warred  with  the  energies 
of  his  returning  health,  he  took  the  heroic  resolution  that  he  y* 
would  remain  a  priest,  and  an  honest  one.  He  would  find  the 
strength  necessary  for  such  abnegation.  Since  he  had  con- 
quered the  flesh,  albeit  unable  to  conquer  the  brain,  he  felt 
sure  of  keeping  his  vow  of  chastity,  and  that  would  be  un- 
shakable ;  therein  lay  the  pure,  upright  life  which  he  was 
absolutely  certain  of  living.  What  mattered  the  rest  if  he 
alone  suffered,  if  nobody  in  the  world  suspected  that  his  heart 
was  reduced  to  ashes,  that  nothing  remained  of  his  faith,  that 
he  was  agonising  amidst  fearful  falsehood?  His  rectitude 
would  prove  a  firm  prop  ;  he  would  foUow  his  priestly  calling 
like  an  honest  man,  without  breaking  any  of  the  vows  that  he 
had  taken  ;  he  would,  in  due  accordance  with  the  rites,  dis- 
charge his  duties  as  a  minister  of  the  Divinity,  whom  he 
would  praise  and  glorify  at  the  altar,  and  distribute  as  the 
Bread  of  Life  to  the  faithful.  Who,  then,  would  dare  to  im- 
pute his  loss  of  faith  to  him  as  a  crime,  even  if  this  great 
misfortune  should  some  day  become  known  ?  And  what  more 
could  be  asked  of  him  than  Ufe-long  devotion  to  his  vow,  re- 
gard for  his  ministry,  and  the  practice  of  every  charity  without 
the  hope  of  any  future  reward  ?  In  this  wise  he  ended  by 
calming  himself,  still  upright,  stUl  bearing  his  head  erect,  with 
the  desolate  grandeur  of  the  priest  who  himself  no  longer 
believes,  but  continues  watching  over  the  faith  of  others.  And  -y 
he  certainly  was  not  alone ;  he  felt  that  he  had  many  brothers, 
priests  with  ravaged  minds,  who  had  sunk  into  incredulity, 
and  who  yet,  like  soldiers  without  a  fatherland,  remained  at 
the  altar,  and,  despite  everything,  found  the  courage  to  make 
the  divine  illusion  shine  forth  above  the  kneeling  crowds. 

On  recovering  his  health  Pierre  had  immediately  resumed 
his  service  at  the  little  church  of  Neuilly.  He  said  his  mass 
there  every  morning.  But  he  had  resolved  to  refuse  any  ap->- 
pointment,  any  preferment.  Months  and  years  went  by,  and 
he  obstinately  insisted  on  remaining  the  least  known  and  the 
most  humble  of  those  priests  who  are  tolerated  in  a  parish, 
who  appear  and  disappear  after  discharging  their  duty.  The 
acceptance  of  any  appointment  would  have  seemed  to  him  an 
aggravation  of  his  falsehood,  a  theft  from  those  who  were  mora 
deserving  than  himself.    And  he  had  to  resist  frequent  offera, 


for  it  was  impossible  for  his  merits  to  remain  unnoticed.  In- 
deed, his  obstinate  modesty  provoked  astonishment  at  the 
archbishop's  palace,  where  there  was  a  desire  to  utilise  the 
power  which  could  be  divined  in  him.  Now  and  again,  it  is 
true,  he  bitterly  regretted  that  he  was  not  useful,  that  he  did 
not  co-operate  in  some  great  work,  in  furthering  the  purifica- 
tion of  the  world,  the  salvation  and  happiness  of  all,  in  accor- 
dance with  his  own  ardent,  torturing  desire.  Fortunately  his 
time  was  nearly  all  his  own,  and  to  console  himself  he_  gave 
rein  to  his  passion  for  work  by  devouring  every  volume  in  hia 
father's  bookcase,  and  then  again  resuming  and  considering 
his  studies,  feverishly  pre-oooupied  with  regard  to  the  history 
of  nations,  full  of  a  desire  to  explore  the  depths  of  the  social 
and  religious  crisis  so  that  he  might  ascertain  whether  it  were 
really  beyond  remedy. 

It  was  at  this  time,  whilst  rummaging  one  morning  in  one 
of  the  large  drawers  in  the  lower  part  of  the  bookcase,  that  he 
discovered  quite  a  collection  of  papers  respecting  the  appari- 
tions of  Lourdes.  It  was  a  very  complete  set  of  documents, 
comprising  detailed  notes  of  the  interrogatories  to  which  Ber- 
nadette  had  been  subjected,  copies  of  numerous  official  docu- 
ments, and  poUce  and  medical  reports,  in  addition  to  many 
private  and  confidential  letters  of  the  greatest  interest.  This 
discovery  had  surprised  Pierre,  and  he  had  questioned  Doctor 
Chassaigne  concerning  it.  The  latter  thereupon  remembered 
that  his  friend,  Michel  Froment,  had  at  one  time  passionately 
devoted  himself  to  the  study  of  Bernadette's  case ;  and  he 
himself,  a  native  of  a  village  near  Lourdes,  had  procured  for  the 
chemist  a  portion  of  the  documents  in  the  collection.  Pierre, 
in  his  turn,  then  became  impassioned,  and  for  a  whole  month 
continued  studying  the  affair,  powerfully  attracted  by  the 
visionary's  pure,  upright  nature,  but  indignant  with  all  that 
had  subsequently  sprouted  up — the  barbarous  fetishism,  the 
painful  superstitions,  and  the  triumphant  simony.  In  the  access 
of  unbelief  which  had  come  upon  him,  this  story  of  Lourdes 
was  certainly  of  a  nature  to  complete  the  coUapse  of  his  faith. 
However,  it  had  also  excited  his  curiosity,  and  he  would  have 
liked  to  investigate  it,  to  establish  beyond  dispute  what  scien- 
tific truth  was  in  it,  and  render  to  pure  Christianity  the  service 
of  ridding  it  of  this  scoria,  this  fairy  tale,  aU  touching  and 
childish  as  it  was.  But  he  had  been  obliged  to  relinquish  his 
studies,  shrinking  from  the  necessity  of  making  a  journey  to 
the  Grotto,  and  finding  that  it  would  be  extremely  difficult  to 


obtain  tho  information  which  he  still  needed ;  and  of  it  all 
there  at  last  only  remained  within  him  a  tender  feeling  for 
Bemadette,  of  whom  he  could  not  think  without  a  sensation 
of  delightful  charm  and  infinite  pity. 

The  days  went  by,  and  Pierre  led  a  more  and  more  lonely 
life.  Doctor  Chassaigne  had  just  left  for  the  Pyrenees  in  a 
state  of  mortal  anxiety.  Abandoning  his  patients,  he  had  set 
out  for  Cauterets  with  his  ailing  wife,  who  was  sinking  more 
and  more  each  day,  to  the  infinite  distress  of  both  his  charm- 
ing daughter  and  himself.  From  that  moment  the  little  house 
at  NeuiUy  fell  into  deathlike  silence  and  emptiness.  Pierrehad 
no  other  distraction  than  that  of  occasionally  going  to  see  the 
Guersaints,  who  had  long  since  left  the  neighbouring  house,  but 
whom  he  had  found  again  in  a  small  lodging  in  a  wretched 
tenement  of  the  district.  And  the  memory  of  his  first  visit  to 
them  there  was  yet  so  fresh  within  him,  that  he  felt  a  pang 
at  his  heart  as  he  recalled  his  emotion  at  sight  of  the  hapless 

That  pang  roused  him  from  his  reverie,  and  on  looking 
round  he  perceived  Marie  stretched  on  the  seat,  as  he  had 
found  her  on  the  day  which  he  recalled,  already  imprisoned  in 
that  gutter-like  box,  that  cofBn  to  which  wheels  were  adapted 
when  she  was  taken  out  of  doors  for  an  airing.  She,  formerly 
so  brimful  of  life,  ever  astir  and  laughing,  was  dying  of  inaction 
and  immobility  in  that  box.  Of  her  old-time  beauty  she  had 
retained  nothing  save  her  hair,  which  clad  her  as  with  a  royal 
mantle,  and  she  was  so  emaciated  that  she  seemed  to  have 
grown  smaller  again,  to  have  become  once  more  a  child.  And 
what  was  most  distressing  was  the  expression  on  her  pale 
face,  the  blank,  frigid  stare  of  her  eyes  which  did  not  see,  the 
ever-hauntiag  absent  look,  as  of  one  whom  her  suiferkig 
overwhelmed.  However,  she  noticed  that  Pierre  was  gazing 
at  her,  and  at  once  desired  to  smile  at  him  ;  but  irresistible 
moans  escaped  her,  and  when  she  did  at  last  smile,  it  was 
like  a  poor  smitten  creature  who  is  convinced  that  she  will 
expire  before  the  miracle  takes  place.  He  was  overcome 
by  it,  and,  amidst  all  the  sufferings  with  which  the  carriage 
abounded,  hers  were  now  the  only  ones  that  he  beheld  and 
heard,  as  though  one  and  all  were  summed  up  in  her,  in  the 
long  and  terrible  agony  of  her  beauty,  gaiety,  and  youth. 

Then  by  degrees,  without  taking  his  eyes  off  Marie,  he 
again  reverted  to  former  days,  again  Uved  those  hours,  fraught 
with  a  mournful  and  bitter  charm,  which  he  had  often  spent 


beside  her,  when  he  called  at  the  sorry  lodging  to  keep  her 
company.  M.  de  Guersaint  had  finally  ruined  himself  by 
trying  to  improve  the  artistic  quality  of  the  rehgious  prints 
so  widely  sold  in  Prance,  the  faulty  execution  of  which 
quite  irritated  him.  His  last  resources  had  been  swallowed 
up  in  the  failure  of  a  colour-printing  firm ;  and,  heedless  as 
he  was,  deficient  in  foresight,  ever  trusting  ia  Providence,  his 
childish  mind  continually  swayed  by  illusions,  he  did  not 
notice  the  awful  pecuniary  embarrassment  of  the  house- 
hold ;  but  applied  himself  to  the  study  of  aerial  navigation, 
without  even  reaUsing  what  prodigious  activity  his  elder 
daughter,  Blanche,  was  forced  to  display,  in  order  to  earn 
the  living  of  her  two  children,  as  she  was  wont  to  call  her 
father  and  her  sister.  It  was  Blanche  who,  by  running  about 
Paris  in  the  dust  or  the  mud  from  morning  to  evening  in  order 
to  give  French  or  music  lessons,  contrived  to  provide  the 
money  necessary  for  the  unremitting  attentions  which  Marie 
required.  And  Marie  often  experienced  attacks  of  despair — 
bursting  into  tears  and  accusing  herself  of  being  the  primary 
cause  of  their  ruin,  as  for  years  and  years  now  it  had 
been  necessary  to  pay  for  medical  attendance  and  for  taking 
her  to  almost  every  imaginable  spring — ^La  Bourboule,  Aix, 
Lamalou,  Am61ie-les-Bains,  and  others.  And  the  outcome  of 
ten  years  of  varied  diagnosis  and  treatment  was  that  the 
doctors  had  now  abandoned  her.  Some  thought  her  Ulness  to 
be  due  to  the  rupture  of  certain  Hgaments,  others  believed  in 
the  presence  of  a  tumour,  others  again  in  paralysis  due  to 
injury  to  the  spinal  cord,  and  as  she,  with  maidenly  revolt, 
refused  to  undergo  any  examination,  and  they  did  not  even 
dare  to  address  precise  questions  to  her,  they  each  contented 
themselves  with  their  several  opinions  and  declared  that  she 
was  beyond  cure.  Moreover,  she  now  solely  relied  upon  the 
Divine  help,  having  grown  rigidly  pious  since  she  had  been 
suffering,  and  finding  her  only  relief  in  her  ardent  faith. 
Thus,  every  morning  she  herself  read  the  holy  offices; 
for  to  her  great  sorrow  she  was  unable  to  go  to  church. 
Her  inert  limbs  now  seemed  quite  lifeless,  and  she  had  sunk 
into  a  condition  of  extreme  weakness,  to  such  a  point,  in  fact, 
that  on  certain  days  it  became  necessary  for  her  sister  to 
place  her  food  in  her  mouth. 

Pierre  was  thinking  of  this  when  all  at  once  he  recalled  an 
evening  he  had  spent  with  her.  The  lamp  had  not  yet  been 
lighted,  and  as  be  sat  begide  her  in  the  growing  obscurity. 


she  suddenly  told  him  that  she  wished  to  go  to  Lourdes,  feel- 
ing certain  that  she  would  return  cured.  He  had  experienced 
an  uncomfortable  sensation  on  hearing  her  speak  in  this 
fashion,  and  quite  forgetting  himself  had  exclaimed  that  it  was 
folly  to  believe  in  such  childishness.  He  had  hitherto  made 
it  a  rule  never  to  converse  with  her  on  religious  matters, 
having  not  only  refused  to  be  her  confessor,  but  even  to  advise 
her  with  regard  to  the  petty  uncertainties  of  her  pietism.  In 
this  respect  he  was  influenced  by  feelings  of  both  shame  and 
compassion ;  to  lie  to  her  of  aU  people  would  have  made  him 
suffer,  and,  moreover,  he  would  have  deemed  himself  a  criminal 
had  he  even  by  a  breath  sullied  the  fervent  pure  faith  which 
lent  her  such  strength  against  pain.  And  so,  regretting  that 
he  had  not  been  able  to  restrain  his  exclamation,  he  remained 
sorely  embarrassed,  when  all  at  once  he  felt  the  girl's  cold  hand 
take  hold  of  his  own.  And  then,  emboldened  by  the  darkness, 
she  ventured  in  a  gentle,  faltering  voice,  to  tell  him  that  she 
already  knew  his  secret,  his  misfortune,  that  wretchedness,  so 
fearful  for  a  priest,  of  being  unable  to  believe. 

Despite  himself  he  had  revealed  everything  during  their 
chats  together,  and  she,  with  the  delicate  intuition  of  a  friend, 
had  been  able  to  read  his  conscience.  She  felt  terribly  dis- 
tressed on  his  account ;  she  deemed  him,  with  that  mortal  moral 
malady,  to  be  more  deserving  of  pity  than  herself.  And  then 
as  he,  thunderstruck,  was  stiU  unable  to  find  an  answer,  ac- 
knowledging the  truth  of  her  words  by  his  very  silence,  she 
again  began  to  speak  to  him  of  Lourdes,  adding  in  a  low 
whisper  that  she  wished  to  confide  him  as  well  as  herself  to 
the  protection  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  whom  she  entreated  to 
restore  him  to  faith^  And  from  that  evening  forward  she  did 
not  cease  speaking  on  the  subject,  repeating  again  and  again, 
that  if  she  went  to  Lourdes  she  would  be  surely  cured.  But  she 
was  prevented  from  making  the  journey  by  lack  of  means 
and  did  not  even  dare  to  speak  to  her  sister  of  the  pecuniary 
question.  So  two  months  went  by,  and  day  by  day  she  grew 
weaker,  exhausted  by  her  longing  dreams,  her  eyes  ever  turned 
towards  the  flashing  light  of  the  miraculous  Grotto  far 

Pierre  then  experienced  many  painful  days.  He  had  at 
first  told  Marie  that  he  would  not  accompany  her.  But  his 
decision  was  somewhat  shaken  by  the  thought  that  if  he  made 
up  his  mind  to  go,  he  might  profit  by  the  journey  to  con- 

|inue  his  inquiries  with  regard  to  Bernadette,  wl^oge  charming 

'  "  ■      '        i        -     -  -       .        ■       •  _ 


image  lingered  ia  Ms  heart.  And  at  last  he  even  felt  pene- 
trated by  a  delightful  feeling,  an  unacknowledged  hope,  the 
hope  that  Marie  was  perhaps  right,  that  the  Virgin  might  take 
vpity  on  him  and  restore  to  him  his  former  blind  faith,  the 
faith  of  the  child  who  loves  and  does  not  question.  Oh  I  to 
believe,  to  believe  with  his  whole  soul,  to  plunge  into  faith  for 
ever  1  Doubtless  there  was  no  other  possible  happiness.  He 
longed  for  faith  with  all  the  j  oyousness  of  his  youth,  with  all  the 
love  that  he  had  felt  for  his  mother,  with  all  his  burning  desire 
to  escape  from  the  torment  of  understanding  and  knowing,  and 
to  slumber  for  ever  in  the  depths  of  divine  ignorance.  It  was 
cowardly,  and  yet  so  deUghtful ;  to  exist  no  more,  to  become 
a  mere  thing  in  the  hands  of  the  Divinity.  And  thus  he  was 
at  last  possessed  by  a  desire  to  make  the  supreme  experi- 

A  week  later  the  journey  to  Lourdes  was  decided  upon. 
Pierre,  however,  had  insisted  on  a  final  consultation  of  medical 
men  in  order  to  ascertain  if  it  were  really  possible  for  Marie 
to  travel ;  and  this  again  was  a  scene  which  rose  up  before 
him,  with  certain  incidents  which  he  ever  beheld  whilst  others 
were  abeady  fading  from  his  mind.  Two  of  the  doctors  who 
had  formerly  attended  the  patient,  and  one  of  whom  believed 
in  the  rupture  of  certain  ligaments,  whilst  the  other  asserted 
the  case  to  be  one  of  medullary  paralysis,  had  ended  by  agree- 
ing that  this  paralysis  existed,  and  that  there  was  also, 
possibly,  some  ligamentary  injury.  In  their  opinion  all  the 
symptoms  pointed  to  this  diagnosis,  and  the  nature  of  the 
case  seemed  to  them  so  evident  that  they  did  not  hesitate  to 
give  certificates,  each  his  own,  agreeing  almost  word  for  word 
with  one  another,  and  so  positive  in  character  as  to  leave  no 
room  for  doubt.  Moreover,  they  thought  that  the  journey 
was  practicable,  though  it  would  certainly  prove  an  extremely 
painful  one.  Pierre  thereupon  resolved  to  risk  it,  for  he  had 
found  the  doctors  very  prudent,  and  very  desirous  to  arrive  at 
the  truth ;  and  he  retained  but  a  confused  recollection  of  the 
third  medical  man  who  had  been  called  in,  a  distant  cousin 
of  his  named  De  Beauolair,  who  was  young,  extremely  intelli- 
gent, but  little  known  as  yet,  and  said  by  some  to  be  rather 
strange  in  his  theories.  This  doctor,  after  looking  at  Marie 
for  a  long  time,  had  asked  somewhat  anxiously  about  her 
parents,  and  had  seemed  greatly  interested  by  what  was  told 
him  of  M.  de  Guersaint,  this  architect  and  inventor  witii  a 
weak  and  exuberant  mind.    Then  he  had  desired  to  measure 


the  sufferer's  visual  field,  and  by  a  slight  discreet  touch  had 
ascertained  the  locality  of  the  pain,  which,  under  certain 
pressure,  seemed  to  ascend  like  a  heavy  shifting  mass  towards 
the  breast.  He  did  not  appear  to  attach  importance  to  the 
paralysis  of  the  legs ;  but  on  a  direct  question  being  put  to 
him  he  exclaimed  that  the  girl  ought  to  be  taken  to  Lourdea 
and  that  she  would  assuredly  be  cured  there,  if  she  herself 
were  convinced  of  it.  Faith  sufficed,  said  he,  with  a  smijs ; 
two  pious  lady  Datiefit3."g  his.  whnTfa-neLJiiiiaTsent  thither 

liad  retHTBg-d-hi  radiant  fiealth. 


Her^ren'-preflJctSdTnow  the'iffi'a^  it 

would  be  hke  a  Hghtning  stroke,  an  awakening,  an  exaltation 
of  the  entire  being,  whilst  the  evil,  that  horrid,  diabolical 
weight  which  stifled  the  poor  girl,  would  once  more  ascend  and 
fly  away  as  though  emerging  by  her  mouth.  But  at  the  same 
time  he  flatly  declined  to  give  a  certificate.  He  had  failed  to 
agrree  with  his  two  confr&res,  who  treated  him  coldly,  as  though 
they  considered  him  a  wUd,  adventurous  young  fellow.  Pierre 
confusedly  remembered  some  shreds  of  the  discussion  which 
had  begun  again  in  his  presence,  some  httle  part  of  the  dia- 
gnosis framed  by  Beauclair.  Fu'st,  a  dislocation  of  the  organ, 
with  a  slight  laceration  of  the  ligaments,  resulting  from  the 
patient's  faU  from  her  horse  ;  then  a  slow  heaUng,  everything 
returning  to  its  place,  followed  by  consecutive  nervous  symp- 
toms, so  that  the  sufferer  was  now  simply  beset  by  her  original 
fright,  her  attention  fixed  on  the  injured  part,  arrested  there 
amidst  increasing  pain,  incapable  of  acquiring  fresh  notions 
unless  it  were  under  the  lash  of  some  violent  emotion.  More- 
over, he  also  admitted  the  probability  of  accidents  due  to 
nutrition,  as  yet  unexplained,  and  on  the  course  and  impor- 
tance of  which  he  himself  would  not  venture  to  give  an 
opinion.  However,  the  idea  that  Marie  dreamt  her  disease, 
ib&i  the  fearful  sufferings  torturing  her  came  from  an  injury 
long  since  healed,  appeared  such  a  paradox  to  Pierre  when 
he  gazed  at  her  and  saw  her  in  such  agony,  her  Umbs  already 
stretched  out  lifeless  on  her  bed  of  misery,  that  he  did  not 
even  pause  to  consider  it;  but  at  that  moment  felt  simply 
happy  in  the  thought  that  all  three  doctors  agreed  in  authoris- 
ing the  journey  to  Lourdes.  To  him  it  was  sufficient  that 
she  Tn/ight  be  cured,  and  to  attain  that  result  he  would  have 
followed  her  to  the  end  of  the  world. 

Ah !  those  last  days  of  Paris,  amid  what  a  scramble  they 
were  spent !    The  national  pilgrimage  was  about  to  start, 



and  in  order  to  avoid  heavy  expenses,  it  had  occurred  to  him 
to  obtain  hospitalisation  for  Marie.  Then  he  had  been 
obliged  to  run  about  in  order  to  obtain  his  own  admission,  as 
a  helper,  into  the  Hospitality  of  Our  Lady  of  Salvation.  M. 
de  Guersaint  was  delighted  with  the  prospect  of  the  journey, 
for  he  was  fond  of  nature,  and  ardently  desired  to  become 
acquainted  with  the  Pyrenees.  Moreover,  he  did  not  allow 
anything  to  worry  him,  but  was  perfectly  willing  that  the 
young  priest  should  pay  his  railway  fare,  and  provide  for  him 
at  the  hotel  yonder  as  for  a  child  ;  and  his  daughter  Blanche, 
having  slipped  a  twenty-franc  piece  into  his  hand  at  the  last 
moment,  he  had  even  thought  himself  rich  again.  That  poor 
brave  Blanche  had  a  little  hidden  store  of  her  own,  savings  to 
the  amount  of  fifty  francs ,  which  it  had  been  absolutely  necessary 
to  accept,  for  she  became  quite  angry  in  her  determination  to 
contribute  towards  her  sister's  cure,  unable  as  she  was  to 
form  one  of  the  party,  owing  to  the  lessons  which  she  had 
to  give  in  Paris,  whose  hard  pavements  she  must  continue 
pacing,  whilst  her  dear  ones  were  kneeling  yonder,  amidst 
the  enchantments  of  the  Grotto.  And  so  the  others  had 
started  off,  and  were  now  roUing,  ever  rolling  along. 

As  they  passed  the  station  of  Chatellerault  a  sudden  burst 
of  voices  made  Pierre  start,  and  drove  away  the  torpor  into 
which  his  reverie  had  plunged  him.  What  was  the  matter  ? 
Were  they  reaching  Poitiers  ?  But  it  was  only  half -past 
twelve  o'clock,  and  it  was  simply  Sister  Hyacinthejwho  had 
roused  him,  by  making  her  patients  and  pilgrims  say  the 
Angelus,  the  three  '  Aves '  thrite  repeated.  Then  the  voices 
burst  forth,  and  the  sound  of  a  fresh  canticle  arose,  and  con- 
tinued like  a  lamentation.  Fully  five-and-twenty  minutes 
must  elapse  before  they  would  reach  Poitiers,  where  it  seemed 
as  if  the  half-hour's  stoppage  would  bring  reUet  to  every 
suffering  !  They  were  all  so  uncomfortable,  so  roughly  shaken 
in  that  malodorous,  burning  carriage  1  Such  wretchedness 
was  beyond  endurance.  Big  tears  coursed  down  the  cheeks 
of  Madame  Vincent,  a  muttered  oath  escaped  M.  Sabathier 
usually  so  resigned,  and  Brother  Isidore,  La  Grivotte,  and 
Madame  Vetu  seemed  to  have  become  inanimate,  mere  waifs 
carried  along  by  a  torrent.  Moreover,  Marie  no  longer 
answered,  but  had  closed  her  eyes  and  would  not  open  them, 
pursued  as  she  was  by  the  horrible  vision  of  Elise  Bouquet's 
face,  that  face  with  its  gaping  cavities  which  seemed  to  her 
to  be  the  image  of  death.    And  whilst  the  train  increased  its 


speed,  bearing  all  this  human  despair  onward,  under  the 
heavy  sky,  athwart  the  burning  plains,  there  was  yet  another 
scare  in  the  carriage.  The  strange  man  had  apparently 
ceased  to  breathe,  and  a  voice  cried  out  that  he  was  expiring. 



As  soon  as  the  train  arrived  at  Poitiers,  Sister  Hyaointhe 
alighted  in  all  haste,  amidst  the  crowd  of  porters  opening 
the  carriage  doors,  and  of  pilgrims  darting  forward  to  reach 
the  platform.  '  Wait  a  moment,  wait  a  moment,'  she  re- 
peated, '  let  me  pass  first.    I  wish  to  see  if  all  is  over.' 

Then,  having  entered  the  other  compartment,  she  raised 
the  strange  man's  head,  and  seeing  him  so  pale,  with  such 
blank  eyes,  she  did  at  first  think  him  already  dead.  At  last, 
however,  she  detected  a  faint  breathing.  '  No,  no,'  she  then 
exclaimed, '  he  still  breathes.  Quick !  there  is  no  time  to  be 
lost,'  And,  perceiving  the  other  Sister,  she  added :  '  Sister 
Claire  des  Anges  will  you  go  and  fetch  Father  Massias,  who 
must  be  in  the  third  or  fourth  carriage  of  the  train  ?  Tell  him 
„that  we  have  a  patient  in  very  great  danger  here,  and  ask 
him  to  bring  the  Holy  Oils  at  once.' 

Without  answering,  the  other  Sister  at  once  plunged  into  the 
midst  of  the  scramble.  She  was  small,  slender,  and  gentle, 
with  a  meditative  air  and  mysterious  eyes,  but  withal  ex- 
tremely active. 

Pierre,  who  was  standing  in  the  other  compartment 
watching  the  scene,  now  ventured  to  make  a  suggestion: 
*  And  would  it  not  be  as  well  to  fetch  the  doctor  ?  '  said  he. 

'  Yes,  I  was  thinking  of  it,'  replied  Sister  Hyacinthe, '  and. 
Monsieur  I'Abbe,  it  would  be  very  kind  of  you  to  go  for  him 

It  so  happened  that  Pierre  intended  going  to  the  eantine 
carriage  to  fetch  some  broth  for  Marie.  Now  that  she  was 
no  longer  being  jolted  she  felt  somewhat  relieved,  and  had 
opened  her  eyes,  and  caused  her  father  to  raise  her  to  a  sitting 
posture.  Keenly  thirsting  for  fresh  air,  she  would  have  much 
liked  them  to  carry  her  out  on  to  the  platform  for  a  moment,  but 
she  felt  that  it  would  be  asking  too  much,  that  it  would  be  too 


troublesome  a  task  to  place  her  inside  the  carriage  again.  So 
M.  de  Guersaint  remained  by  himself  on  the  platform,  near  the 
open  door,  smoking  a  cigarette,  whilst  Pierre  hastened  to  the 
cantine  van,  where  he  knew  he  would  find  the  doctor  on  duty, 
with  his  little  travelling  pharmacy. 

Some  other  patients,  whom  one  could  not  think  of  remov- 
ing, also  remained  in  the  carriage.  Amongst  them  was  La 
Grivotte,  who  was  stifling  and  almost  delirious,  in  such  a  state 
indeed  as  to  detain  Madame  de  Jonquiere,  who  had  arranged 
to  meet  her  daughter  Eaymonde,  with  Madame  Volmar  and 
Madame  D^sagneaux,  in  the  refreshment-room,  in  order  that 
they  might  aU  four  lunch  together.  But  that  unfortunate 
creature  seemed  on  the  point  of  expiring,  so  how  could  she 
leave  her  all  alone,  on  the  hard  seat  of  that  carriage  ?  On  his 
side,  M.  Sabathier,  likewise  riveted  to  his  seat,  was  waiting 
for  his  wife,  who  had  gone  to  fetch  a  bunch  of  grapes  for 
him;  whilst  Marthe  had  remained  with  her  brother  the 
missionary,  whose  faint  moan  never  ceased.  The  others, 
those  who  were  able  to  walk,  had  hustled  one  another  in 
their  haste  to  alight,  all  eager  as  they  were  to  escape  for  a 
moment  from  that  cage  of  wretchedness  where  their  limbs  had 
been  quite  numbed  by  the  seven  hours'  journey  which  they 
had  so  far  gone.  Madame  Maze  had  at  once  drawn  apart, 
straying  with  melancholy  face  to  the  far  end  of  the  platform, 
where  she  found  herseK  all  alone;  Madame  Yetu,  stupefied 
by  her  sufferings,  had  found  sufficient  strength  to  take  a  few 
steps,  and  sit  down  on  a  bench,  in  the  f  uU  sunlight,  where  she 
did  not  even  feel  the  burning  heat ;  whilst  EUse  Bouquet,  who 
had  had  the  decency  to  cover  her  face  with  a  black  wrap,  and 
was  consumed  by  a  desire  for  fresh  water,  went  hither  and 
thither  in  search  of  a  drinking  fountain.  And  meantime 
Madame  Vincent,  walking  slowly,  carried  her  little  Eose  about 
in  her  arms,  trying  to  smile  at  her,  and  to  cheer  her  by  show- 
ing her  some  gaudily  coloured  picture  biUs,  which  the  child 
gravely  gazed  at,  but  did  not  see. 

Pierre  had  the  greatest  possible  difficulty  to  make  his  way 
through  the  crowd  inundating  the  platform.  No  effort  of 
imagination  could  enable  one  to  picture  the  living  torrent  of 
ailing  and  healthy  beings  which  the  train  had  here  set  down— 
a  mob  of  more  than  a  thousand  persons,  just  emerging  from 
suffocation,  and  bustling,  hurrying,  hither  and  thither.  Each 
carriage  had  contributed  its  share  of  wretchedness,  like  some 
hospital  ward  suddenly  evacuated ;  and  it  was  now  possible  to 


form  an  idea  of  the  frightful  amount  of  suffering  which  this  ter- 
rible white  train  carried  along  with  it,  this  train  which  dissemi- 
nated a  legend  of  horror  wheresoever  it  passed.  Some  infirm 
sufferers  were  dragging  themselves  about,  others  were  being  car- 
ried, and  many  remained  in  a  heap  on  the  platform.  There  were 
sudden  pushes,  violent  caUs,  innumerable  displays  of  distracted 
eagerness  to  reach  the  refreshment-rooms  and  the  bii/vettc. 
Each  and  all  made  haste,  going  wheresoever  their  wants 
called  them.  This  stoppage  of  half  an  hour's  duration,  the 
only  stoppage  there  would  bo  before  reaching  Lourdes,  was, 
after  all,  such  a  short  one.  And  the  only  gay  note,  amidst 
all  the  black  cassocks  and  the  threadbare  garments  of  the 
poor,  never  of  any  precise  shade  of  colour,  was  supplied  by  the 
smiling  whiteness  of  the  Little  Sisters  of  the  Assumption,  all 
bright  and  active  in  their  snowy  coifs,  wimples,  and  aprons. 

When  Pierre  at  last  reached  the  cantine  van  near  the 
middle  of  the  train,  he  found  it  already  besieged.  There  was 
here  a  petroleum  stove,  with  a  small  supply  of  cooking 
utensils.  The  broth  prepared  from  concentrated  meat-extract 
was  being  warmed  in  vyrought-iron  pans,  whilst  the  preserved 
milk  in  tins  was  diluted  and  supplied  as  occasion  required. 
There  were  some  other  provisions,  such  as  biscuits,  fruit,  and 
chocolate,  on  a  few  shelves.  But  Sister  Saint-Fran9ois,  to 
whom  the  service  was  entrusted,  a  short,  stout  woman  of 
five  and  forty,  with  a  good-natured  fresh-coloured  face,  was 
somewhat  losing  her  head  in  presence  of  all  the  hands  so 
eagerly  stretched  towards  her.  Whilst  continuing  her  distri- 
bution, she  lent  ear  to  Pierre,  as  he  called  the  doctor,  who 
with  his  travelling  pharmacy  occupied  another  corner  of  the 
van.  Then,  when  the  young  priest  began  to  explain  matters, 
speaking  of  the  poor  unknown  man  who  was  dying,  a  sudden 
desire  came  to  her  to  go  and  see  him,  and  she  summoned 
another  Sister  to  take  her  place. 

'  Oh !  I  wished  to  ask  you.  Sister,  for  some  broth  for  a 
passenger  who  is  Ul,'  said  Pierre,  at  that  moment  turning 
towards  her. 

•  Very  well.  Monsieur  I'AbbS,  I  will  bring  some.  Go  on  in 

The  doctor  and  the  abb6  went  off  in  all  haste,  rapidly 
questioning  and  answering  one  another,  whilst  behind  them 
followed  Sister  Saint- Franjois,  carrying  the  bowl  of  broth  with 
all  possible  caution  amidst  the  jostling  of  the  crowd.  The 
doctor  was  a  dark-complexioned  man  of  eight  and  twenty, 


robust  and  extremely  handsome,  with  the  head  of  a  young 
Eoman  emperor,  such  as  may  still  be  occasionally  met  with  in 
the  sunburnt  land  of  Provence.  As  soon  as  Sister  Hyacinthe 
caught  sight  of  him,  she  raised  an  exclamation  of  surprise  : 
'  What !  Monsieur  Ferrand,  is  it  you  ? '  Indeed,  they  both 
seemed  amazed  at  meeting  in  this  manner. 

It  is  however  the  courageous  mission  of  the  Sisters  of  the 
Assumption  to  tend  the  ailing  poor,  those  who  lie  in  agony  in 
their  humble  garrets,  and  cannot  pay  for  nursing ;  and  thus 
these  good  women  spend  their  Uves  among  the  wretched,  instal- 
ling themselves  beside  the  sufferer's  pallet  in  his  tiny  lodging, 
ministering  to  every  want,  attending  both  to  cooking  and 
cleaning,  and  living  there  Hke  servants  and  relatives,  until 
either  cure  or  death  supervenes.  And  it  was  in  this  wise  that 
Bister  Hyacinthe,  young  as  she  was,  with  her  milky  face,  and 
her  blue  eyes  which  ever  laughed,  had  installed  herself  one 
day  in  the  abode  of  this  young  fellow,  Ferrand,  then  a  medical 
student,  prostrated  by  typhoid  fever,  and  so  desperately  poor 
that  he  lived  in  a  kind  of  loft,  under  the  roof,  and  reached  by  a 
ladder,  in  the  Eue  du  Four.  And  from  that  moment  she  had  not 
stirred  from  his  side,  but  had  remained  with  him  until  she 
cured  him,  with  the  passion  of  one  who  Uved  only  for  others, 
one  who  when  an  infant  had  been  found  in  a  church  porch, 
and  who  had  no  other  family  than  that  of  those  who  suffered, 
to  whom  she  devoted  herself  with  all  her  ardently  affectionate 
nature.  And  what  a  dehghtful  month,  what  exquisite  comrade- 
ship, fraught  with  the  pure  fraternity  of  suffering,  had  followed ! 
When  he  called  her  '  Sister,'  it  was  reaUy  to  a  sister  that  he 
was  speaking.  And  she  was  a  mother  also,  a  mother  who 
helped  him  to  rise,  and  who  put  him  to  bed  as  though  he 
were  her  child,  without  aught  springing  up  between  them  save 
supreme  pity,  the  divine,  gentle  compassion  of  charity.  She 
ever  showed  herself  gay,  sexless,  devoid  of  any  instinct 
excepting  that  which  prompted  her  to  assuage  and  to  console. 
And  he  worshipped  her,  venerated  her,  and  had  retained  of 
her  the  most  chaste  and  passionate  of  recollections. 

'  0  Sister  Hyacinthe  1 '  he  murmured  in  delight. 

Chance  alone  had  brought  them  face  to  face  again,  for 
Ferrand  was  not  a  believer,  and  if  he  found  himself  in  that 
train  it  was  simply  because  he  had  at  the  last  moment  con- 
sented to  take  the  place  of  a  friend  who  was  suddenly  pre- 
vented from  coming.    For  nearly  a  twelvemonth  now  he  had 


been  a  house-surgeon  at  the  Hospital  of  La  Pitie.  However, 
this  journey  to  Lourdes,  in  such  peculiar  circumstances, 
greatly  interested  him. 

The  joy  of  meeting  was  making  them  forget  the  ailing 
stranger.  _  And  so  the  Sister  resumed  :  '  You  see,  Monsieur 
Ferrand,  it  is  for  this  man  that  we  want  you.  At  one 
moment  we  thought  him  dead.  Ever  since  we  passed 
Amboise  he  has  been  filling  us  with  fear,  and  I  have  just  sent 
for  the  Holy  Oils.  Do  you  find  him  so  very  low  ?  Could 
you  not  revive  him  a  little  ?  ' 

The  doctor  was  already  examining  the  man,  and  there- 
upon the  sufferers  who  had  remained  in  the  carriage  became 
greatly  interested  and  began  to  look.  Marie,  to  whom  Sister 
Saint-Francois  had  given  the  bowl  of  broth,  was  holding  it 
with  such  an  unsteady  hand  that  Pierre  had  to  take  it  from 
her,  and  endeavour  to  make  her  drink ;  but  she  could  not 
BwaUow,  and  she  left  the  broth  scarce  tasted,  fixing  her  eyes 
upon  the  man,  waiting  to  see  what  would  happen  like  one 
whose  own  existence  is  at  stake. 

'  Tell  me,'  again  asked  Sister  Hyacinthe,  '  how  do  you 
find  him  ?    What  is  his  illness  ? ' 

'  What  is  his  illness  ! '  muttered  Ferrand  ;  '  he  has  every 

Then,  drawing  a  little  phial  from  his  pocket,  he  en- 
deavoured to  introduce  a  few  drops  of  the  contents  between 
the  sufferer's  clenched  teeth.  The  man  heaved  a  sigh,  raised 
his  eyehds  and  let  them  fall  again :  that  was  all,  he  gave  no 
other  sign  of  Hfe. 

■Sister  Hyacinthe,  usually  so  calm  and  composed,  so  little 
accustomed  to  despair,  became  impatient.  '  But  it  is  terrible,' 
said  she,  '  and  Sister  Claire  des  Anges  does  not  come  back  1 
Yet  I  told  her  plainly  enough  where  she  would  find  Father. 
Massias's  carriage.    Mon  Dieu  !  what  will  become  of  us  ?  ' 

Sister  Saint-Francois,  seeing  that  she  could  render  no  help, 
was  now  about  to  return  to  the  cantine  van.  Before  doing  so, 
however,  she  inquired  if  the  man  were  not  simply  dying  of 
hunger ;  for  such  cases  presented  themselves,  and  indeed  she 
had  only  come  to  the  compartment  with  the  view  of  offering 
some'  of  her  provisions.  At  last,  as  she  went  off,  she  promised 
that  she  would  make  Sister  Claire  des  Anges  hasten  her  re- 
turn should  she  happen  to  meet  her ;  and  she  had  not  gone 
twenty  yards  when  she  turned  round  and  waved  her  arm  to  call 


attention  to  her  colleague,  who  with  discreet  short  steps  was 
coming  back  alone. 

Leaning  out  of  the  window,  Sister  Hyacinthe  kept  on 
caUing  to  her,  '  Make  haste,  make  haste  1  Well,  and  where 
is  Father  Massias  ? ' 

'  He  isn't  there.' 

•What!  not  there?' 

'  No.  I  went  as  fast  as  I  could,  but  with  all  these  people 
about  it  was  not  possible  to  get  there  quickly.  When  I 
reached  the  carriage  Father  Massias  had  already  alighted,  and 
gone  out  of  the  station,  no  doubt.' 

She  thereupon  explained,  that  according  to  what  she  had 
heard.  Father  Massias  and  the  priest  of  Sainte-Badegonde  had 
some  appointment  together.  In  other  years,  the  national 
pilgrimage  halted  at  Poitiers  for  four-and-twenty  hours,  and 
after  those  who  were  ill  had  been  placed  in  the  town  hospital 
the  others  went  in  procession  to  Sainte-Eadegonde.*  That 
year,  however,  there  was  some  obstacle  to  this  course  being 
followed,  so  the  train  was  going  straight  on  to  Lourdes ;  and 
Father  Massias  was  certainly  with  his  friend  the  priest,  talk- 
ing with  him  on  some  matter  of  importance. 

'  They  promised  to  tell  him  and  send  him  here  with  the 
Holy  Oils  as  soon  as  they  found  him,'  added  Sister  Claire. 

However,  this  was  quite  a  disaster  for  Sister  Hyacinthe. 
Since  Science  was  powerless,  perhaps  the  Holy  Ofis  would 
have  brought  the  sufferer  some  reUef.  She  had  often  seen  that 

'  0  Sister,  Sister,  how  worried  I  am ! '  she  said  to  her 
companion.  '  Do  you  know,  I  wish  you  would  go  back  and 
watch  for  Father  Massias,  and  bring  him  to  me  as  soon  as 
you  see  him.    It  would  be  so  kind  of  you  to  do  so  I ' 

'Yes,   Sister,'  compliantly  answered    Sister  Claire  des 

*  The  chnrch  of  Sainte-Badegonde,  bnilt  by  the  saint  of  that  name  in 
the  sixth  century,  is  famous  throughout  Poitou.  In  the  crypt  between 
the  tombs  of  St.  Agnes  and  St.  Disciole  is  that  of  St.  Kadegonde  herself, 
but  it  now  only  contains  some  particles  of  her  remains,  as  the  greater 
portion  was  burnt  by  the  Huguenots  in  15C2.  On  a  previous  occasion 
(1412)  the  tomb  had  been  violated  by  Jean,  Duke  de  Berry,  who  wished 
to  remove  both  the  saint's  head  and  her  two  rings.  Whilst  he  was 
making  the  attempt,  however,  the  skeleton  is  said  to  have  withdrawn  its 
hand  so  that  he  might  not  possess  himself  of  the  lings.  A  greater 
curiosity  which  the  church  contains  is  a  footprint  on  a  stone  slab,  said 
to  have  been  left  by  Christ  when  He  appeared  to  St.  Badegonde  in  her 
cell.    This  attracts  pilgrims  from  many  parts. — TraiM. 


Anges,  and  off  she  went  again  with  that  grave,  mysterious 
air  of  hers,  wending  her  way  through  the  crowd  like  a  gliding 

Ferrand,  meantime,  was  still  looking  at  the  man,  sorely 
distressed  at  his  inahihty  to  please  Sister  Hyacinthe  by  reviv- 
ing him.  And  as  he  made  a  gesture  expressive  of  his  power- 
lessness  she  again  raised  her  voice  entreatingly :  <  Stay  with 
me.  Monsieur  Ferrand,  pray  stay,'  she  said.  '  Wait  till  Father 
Massias  comes — I  shall  be  a  little  more  at  ease  with  you 

He  remained  and  helped  her  to  raise  the  man,  who  was 
slipping  down  upon  the  seat.  Then,  taking  a  linen  cloth,  she 
wiped  the  poor  fellow's  face  which  a  dense  perspiration  was 
continually  covering.  And  the  spell  of  waiting  continued 
amid  the  uneasiness  of  the  patients  who  had  remained  in  the 
carriage,  and  the  curiosity  of  the  folks  who  had  begun  to 
assemble  on  the  platform  in  front  of  the  compartment. 

All  at  once  however  a  girl  hastily  pushed  the  crowd  aside, 
and,  mounting  on  the  footboard,  addressed  herself  to  Madame 
de  JonquiSre:  'What  is  the  matter,  mamma?'  she  said. 
'  They  are  waiting  for  you  in  the  refreshment-room.' 

It  was  Eaymonde  de  Jonquiere,  who  already  somewhat  ripe 
for  her  five-and-twenty  years,  was  remarkably  Uke  her  mother, 
being  very  dark,  with  a  pronounced  nose,  large  mouth,  and 
full,  pleasant-looking  face. 

'  But,  my  dear,  you  can  see  for  yourself.  I  can't  leave  this 
poor  woman,'  replied  the  lady-hospitaUer ;  and  thereupon  she 
pointed  to  La  Grivotte,  who  had  been  attacked  by  a  fit  of 
coughing  which  shook  her  frightfully. 

'  Oh,    how    annoying,    mamma  1 '    retorted    Eaymonde,  • 
'  Madame  D^sagneaux  and  Madame  Volmar  were  looking  for- 
ward with  so  much  pleasure  to  this  httle  lunch  together.' 

'  Well,  it  can't  be  helped,  my  dear.  At  all  events,  yon  can 
begin  without  waiting  for  me.  Tell  the  ladies  that  I  will 
come  and  join  them  as  soon  as  lean.'  Then,  an  idea  occur- 
ring to  her,  Madame  de  Jonquiere  added :  '  Wait  a  moment, 
the  doctor  is  here.  I  will  try  to  get  him  to  take  charge  of  my 
patient.  Go  back,  I  will  follow  you.  As  you  can  guess,  I  am 
dying  of  hunger.' 

Eaymonde  briskly  returned  to  the  refreshment-room  whilst 
her  mother  begged  Ferrand  to  come  into  her  compartment 
to  see  if  he  could  do  something  to  relieve  La  Grivotte.  At 
Marthe's  request  he  had  already  examined  Brother  Isidore, 


whose  moaning  never  ceased  ;  and  with  a  sorrowful  gesture 
he  had  again  confessed  his  powerlessness.  However,  he 
hastened  to  comply  with  Madame  de  Jonqui^re's  appeal,  and 
raised  the  consumptive  woman  to  a  sitting  posture  in  the  hope 
of  thus  stopping  her  cough,  which  indeed  gradually  ceased. 
And  then  he  helped  the  lady- hospitaller  to  make  her  swallow 
a  spoonful  of  some  soothing  draught.  The  doctor's  presence 
in  the  carriage  was  still  causing  a  stir  among  the  ailiig  ones. 
M.  Sabathier,  who  was  slowly  eating  the  grapes  which  his  wife 
had  been  to  fetch  for  him,  did  not  however  question  Ferrand, 
for  he  knew  full  well  what  his  answer  would  be,  and  was 
weary,  as  he  expressed  it,  of  consulting  all  the  princes  of 
science ;  nevertheless  he  felt  comforted  as  it  were  at  seeing 
him  set  that  poor  consumptive  woman  on  her  feet  again.  And 
even  Marie  watched  all  that  the  doctor  did  with  increasing 
interest,  though  not  daring  to  call  him  herself,  certain  as  she 
also  was  that  he  could  do  nothing  for  her. 

Meantime,  the  crush  on  the  platform  was  increasing. 
Only  a  quarter  of  an  hour  now  remained  to  the  pDgrims. 
Madame  Vetu,  whose  eyes  were  open  but  who  saw  nothing, 
sat  hke  an  insensible  being  in  the  broad  sunlight,  in  the  hope 
possibly  that  the  scorching  heat  would  deaden  her  pains; 
whilst  up  and  down,  in  front  of  her,  went  Madame  Vincent 
ever  with  the  same  sleep -inducing  step  and  ever  carrying  her 
little  Eose,  her  poor  ailing  birdie  whose  weight  was  so  trifling 
that  she  scarcely  felt  her  in  her  arms.  Many  people  mean- 
time were  hastening  to  the  water  tap  in  order  to  fill  their 
pitchers,  cans,  and  bottles.  Madame  Maze,  who  was  of  refined 
tastes  and  careful  of  her  person,  thought  of  going  to  wash  her 
hands  there ;  but  just  as  she  arrived  she  found  Elise  Kouquet 
drinking,  and  she  recoiled  at  sight  of  that  disease- smitten 
face,  .so  terribly  disfigured  and  robbed  of  nearly  all  semblance 
of  humanity.  And  all  the  others  likewise  shuddered,  likewise 
hesitated  to  fill  their  bottles,  pitchers,  and  cans  at  the  tap  from 
which  she  had  drunk. 

A  large  number  of  pilgrims  had  now  begun  tij  eat  whilst 
pacing  the  platform.  You  could  hear  the  rhythmical  taps  of 
the  crutches  carried  by  a  woman  who  incessantly  wended  her 
way  through  the  groups.  On  the  ground,  a  legless  cripple 
was  painfully  dragging  herself  about  in  search  of  nobody 
knew  what.  Others,  seated  there  in  heaps,  no  longer  stirred. 
All  these  sufferers,  momentarily  unpacked  as  it  were,  these 
patients  of  a  travelling  hospital  emptied  for  a  brief  haU-hour, 


Were  taking  the  air  amidst  the  bewilderment  and  agitation  of 
the  healthy  passengers  ;  and  the  whole  throng  had  a  fright- 
fully woeful,  poverty-stricken  appearance  in  the  broad  noon- 
tide light. 

Pierre  no  longer  stirred  from  the  side  of  Marie,  for  M. 
de  Gaersaint  had  disappeared,  attracted  by  a  verdant  patch  of 
landscape  which  could  be  seen  at  the  far  end  of  the  station. 
And,  feeling  anxious  about  her,  since  she  had  not  been  able 
to  finish  her  broth,  the  young  priest  with  a  smiling  air  tried 
to  tempt  her  palate  by  offering  to  go  and  buy  her  a  peach  ; 
but  she  refused  it ;  she  was  suffering  too  much,  she  cared  for 
nothing.  She  was  gazing  at  him  with  her  large,  woeful 
eyes,  on  the  one  hand  impatient  at  this  stoppage  which 
delayed  her  chance  of  cure,  and  on  the  other  terrified  at  the 
thought  of  again  being  jolted  along  that  hard  and  endless 

Just  then  a  stout  gentleman  whose  full  beard  was  turning 
grey,  and  who  had  a  broad,  fatherly  kind  of  face,  drew  near 
and  touched  Pierre's  arm :  '  Excuse  me.  Monsieur  I'Abb^,' 
said  he, '  but  is  it  not  in  this  carriage  that  there  is  a  poor 
man  dying  ? ' 

And  on  the  priest  returning  an  affirmative  answer,  the 
gentleman  became  quite  affable  and  familiar.  '  My  name  is 
Vigneron,'  he  said ;  '  I  am  a  head  clerk  at  the  Ministry  of 
Finances,  and  applied  for  leave  in  order  that  I  might  help 
my  wife  to  take  our  son  Gustave  to  Lourdes.  The  dear  lad 
places  all  his  hope  in  the  Blessed  Virgin,  to  whom  we  pray 
morning  and  evening  on  his  behalf.  We  are  in  a  second- 
class  compartment  of  the  carriage  just  in  front  of  yours.' 

Then,  turning  round,  he  summoned  his  party  with  a  wave 
of  the  hand.  '  Come,  come  1 '  said  he,  '  it  is  here.  The  un- 
fortunate man  is  indeed  in  the  last  throes.' 

Madame  Vigneron  was  a  little  woman  with  the  correct 
bearing  of  a  respectable  bourgeoise,  but  her  long  livid  face 
denoted  impoverished  blood,  terrible  evidence  of  which ,  was 
furnished  by  her  son  Gustave.  The  latter,  who  was  fifteen 
years  of  age,  looked  scarcely  ten.  Twisted  out  of  shape,  he 
was  a  mere  skeleton,  with  his  right  leg  so  wasted,  so  reduced, 
that  he  had  tb  walk  with  a  crutch.  He  had  a  small  thin 
face,  somewhat  awry,  in  which  one  saw  little  excepting  his 
eyes,  clear  eyes,  sparkling  with  intelligence,  sharpened  as  it 
were  by  suffering,  and  doubtless  well  able  to  djve  into  the 
human  soul. 


An  old  pufiy-faoed  lady  followed  the  others,  dragging  her 
legs  along  with  diflSculty ;  and  M.  Vigneron,  remembering 
that  he  had  forgotten  her,  stepped  back  towards  Pierre  so 
that  he  might  complete  the  introduction.  '  That  lady,'  said 
he, '  is  Madame  Chaise,  my  wife's  eldest  sister.  She  also 
wished  to  accompany  Gustave,  whom  she  is  very  fond  of.' 
And  then,  leaning  forward,  he  added  in  a  whisper,  with  a 
confidential  air,  '  She  is  the  widow  of  Chaise,  the  silk 
merchant,  you  know,  who  left  such  an  immense  fortune.  She 
is  suffering  from  a  heart  complaint  which  causes  her  much 

The  whole  family,  grouped  together,  then  gazed  with  lively 
curiosity  at  what  was  taMng  place  in  the  railway  carriage. 
People  were  incessantly  flocking  to  the  spot;  and  so  that 
the  lad  might  be  the  better  able  to  see,  his  father  took  him  up 
in  his  arms  for  a  moment,  whilst  his  aunt  held  the  crutch, 
and  his  mother  on  her  side  raised  herself  on  tip-toe. 

The  scene  in  the  carriage  was  still  the  same ;  the  strange 
man  was  still  stiffly  seated  in  his  corner,  his  head  resting 
against  the  hard  wood.  He  was  livid,  his  eyes  were  closed, 
and  bis  mouth  was  twisted  by  suffering ;  and  every  now  and 
then  Sister  Hyacinthe  with  her  linen  cloth  wiped  away  the 
cold  sweat  which  was  constantly  covering  his  face.  She  no 
longer  spoke,  no  longer  evinced  any  impatience,  but  had 
recovered  her  serenity  and  relied  on  Heaven.  From  time  to 
time  she  would  simply  glance  towards  the  platform  to  see  if 
Father  Massias  were  coming. 

*  Look  at  him,  Gustave,'  said  M.  Vigneron  to  his  son ;  '  he 
must  be  consumptive.' 

The  lad,  whom  scrofula  was  eating  away,  whose  hip  was 
attacked  by  an  abscess,  and  in  whom  there  were  already 
signs  of  necrosis  of  the  vertebrae,  seemed  to  take  a  passionate 
interest  in  the  agony  he  thus  beheld.  It  did  not  frighten  him, 
he  smiled  at  it  with  a  smile  of  infinite  sadness. 

'  Oh !  how  dreadful ! '  muttered  Madame  Chaise,  who, 
living  in  continual  terror  of  a  sudden  attack  which  would 
carry  her  off,  turned  pale  with  the  fear  of  death. 

'  Ah  I  well,'  replied  M.  Vigneron  philosophically, '  it  will 
come  to  each  of  us  in  turn.    We  are  all  mortal.' 

Thereupon,  a  painful  mocking  expression  came  over  Gus- 
tavo's smile,  as  though  he  had  heard  other  vsrords  than  those — 
perchance  an  unconscious  wish,  the  hope  that  the  old  aunt 
might  die  before  he  himself  did,  that  he  would  inherit  the 


promised  half -million  of  francs,  and  then  not  long  encumber 
his  family. 

'  Put  the  hoy  down  now,'  said  Madame  Vigneron  to  her 
husband.  '  You  are  tiring  him,  -holding  him  by  the  legs  like 

Then  both  she  and  Madame  Chaise  bestirred  themselves 
in  order  that  the  lad  might  not  be  shaken.  The  poor  darling 
was  so  much  in  need  of  care  and  attention.  At  each  moment 
they  feared  that  they  might  lose  him.  Even  his  father  was 
of  opinion  that  they  had  better  put  him  in  the  train  again  at 
once.  And  as  the  two  women  went  off  with  the  child,  the  old 
gentleman  once  more  turned  towards  Pierre,  and  with  evident 
emotion  exclaimed :  '  Ah  1  Monsieur  I'Abb^,  if  God  should 
take  him  from  us,  the  light  of  our  life  would  be  extinguished 
— I  don't  speak  of  his  aunt's  fortune,  which  would  go  to  other 
'  nephews.  But  it  would  be  unnatural,  would  it  not,  that  he 
should  go  off  before  her,  especially  as  she  is  so  ill  ?  However, 
we  are  all  in  the  hands  of  Providence,  and  place  our  reliance 
in  the  Blessed  Virgin,  who  will  assuredly  perform  a  miracle.' 

Just  then  Madame  de  Jonqui^re,  having  been  reassured  by 
Doctor  Ferrand,  was  able  to  leave  La  Grivotte.  Before  going 
off,  however,  she  took  care  to  say  to  Pierre  :  '  I  am  dying  of 
hunger  and  am  going  to  the  refreshment-room  for  a  mo- 
ment. But  if  my  patient  should  begin  coughing  again,  pray 
come  and  fetch  me.' 

When,  after  great  difficulty,  she  had  managed  to  cross  the 
platform  and  reach  the  refreshment-room,  she  found  herself 
in  the  midst  of  another  scramble.  The  better  circumstanced 
pilgrims  had  taken  the  tables  by  assault,  and  a  great  many 
•priests  were  to  be  seen  hastily  lunching  amidst  all  the  clatter 
of  knives,  forks  and  crockery.  The  three  or  four  waiters  were 
not  able  to  attend  to  all  requirements,  especially  as  they  were 
hampered  in  their  movements  by  the  crowd  purchasing  fruit, 
bread,  and  cold  meat  at  the  counter.  It  was  at  a  little  table  at 
the  far  end  of  the  room  that  Eaymonde  was  lunching  with 
Madame  D6sagneaux  and  Madame  Yolmar. 

'  Ah !  here  you  are  at  last,  mamma  I '  the  girl  exclaimed, 
as  Madame  de  Jonquiere  approached.  '  I  was  just  going  back 
to  fetch  you.    You  certainly  ought  to  be  allowed  time  to  eat ! ' 

She  was  laughing,  with  a  very  animated  expression  on  her 
face,  quite  delighted  as  she  was  with  the  adventures  of  the 
journey  and  this  indifferent,  scrambling  meal.  'There,'  said 
she, '  I  have  kept  you  some  trout  with  green  sauce,  and  there's 


a  cutlet  also  waiting  for  you.    We  have  already  got  to  the 


Then  everything  became  charming.  The  gaiety  prevailing 
in  that  little  comer  rejoiced  the  sight. 

Young  Madame  D6sagneaux  was  particularly  adorable.  A 
deUoate  blonde,  with  wild,  wavy,  yellow  hair,  a  round,  dimpled', 
milky  face,  a  gay,  laughing  disposition,  and  a  remarkably  good 
heart,  she  had  made  a  rich  marriage,  and  for  three  years  past 
had  been  wont  to  leave  her  husband  at  Trouville  in  the  fine 
August  weather,  in  order  to  accompany  the  national  pilgrim- 
age as  a  lady-hospitaller.  This  was  her  great  passion,  an 
access  of  quivering  pity,  a  longing  desire  to  place  herself  un- 
reservedly at  the  disposal  of  the  sick  for  five  days,  a  real  de- 
bauch of  devotion  from  which  she  returned  tired  to  death  but 
full  of  intense  delight.  Her  only  regret  was  that  she  as  yet 
had  no  children,  and  with  comical  passion,  she  occasionally 
expressed  a  regret  that  she  had  missed  her  true  vocation,  that 
of  a  sister  of  charity. 

'  Ah !  my  dear,'  she  hastily  said  to  Eaymonde, '  don't  pity 
your  mother  for  being  so  much  taken  up  with  her  patients. 
She,  at  all  events,  has  something  to  occupy  her.'  And  address- 
ing herself  to  Madame  de  Jonquiere,  she  added :  '  If  you  only 
knew  how  long  we  find  the  time  in  our  fine  first-class  carriage. 
We  cannot  even  occupy  ourselves  with  a  little  needlework, 
as  it  is  forbidden.  I  asked  for  a  place  with  the  patients,  but 
all  were  already  distributed,  so  that  my  only  resource  will  be 
to  try  to  sleep  to-night.' 

She  began  to  laugh,  and  then  resumed :  '  Yes,  Madame 
Volmar,  we  will  try  to  sleep,  won't  we,  since  talking  seems  to 
tire  you  ? '  Madame  Volmar,  who  looked  over  thirty,  was  very 
dark,  with  a  long  face  and  dehcate  but  drawn  features.  Her 
magnificent  eyes  shone  out  Hke  brasiers,  though  every  now  and 
then  a  cloud  seemed  to  veil  and  extinguish  them.  At  the  first 
glance  she  did  not  appear  beautiful,  but  as  you  gazed  at  her  she 
became  more  and  more  perturbing,  till  she  conquered  you  and  . 
inspired  you  with  passionate  adrairation.  It  &hould  be  said 
though  that  she  shrank  from  all  seK-assertion,  comporting 
herself  with  much  modesty,  ever  keeping  in  the  background, 
striving  to  hide  her  lustre,  invariably  clad  in  black  and  un- 
adorned by  a  single  jewel,  although  she  was  the  wife  of  a 
Parisian  diamond-merchant. 

'  Oh  1  for  my  part,'  she  murmured,  '  as  long  as  I  ajn  not 
bustled  too  much  I  t^m  well  pleased.' 


She  had  been  to  Lourdes  as  an  auxiliary  lady  helper 
already  on  two  occasions,  though  but  little  had  been  seen  of 
her  there — at  the  hospital  of  Our  Lady  of  Dolours — as,  on 
arriving,  she  had  been  overcome  by  such  great  fatigue  that  she 
had  been  forced,  she  said,  to  keep  her  room. 

However,  Madame  de  Jonquiere,  who  managed  the  ward, 
treated  her  with  good-natured  tolerance.  '  Ah !  my  poor 
friends,'  said  she, '  there  will  be  plenty  of  time  for  you  to  exert 
yourselves.  Get  to  sleep  if  you  can,  and  your  turn  will  come 
when  I  can  no  longer  keep  up.'  Then  addressing  her  daughter 
she  resumed :  '  And  you  would  do  well,  darling,  not  to  excite 
yourself  too  much  if  you  wish  to  keep  your  head  clear.' 

Eaymonde  smiled  and  gave  her  mother  a  reproachful 
glance :  '  Mamma,  mamma,  why  do  you  say  that  ?  Am  I  not 
sensible  ?  '  she  asked. 

Doubtless  she  was  not  boasting,  for,  despite  her  youthful 
thoughtless  air,  the  air  of  one  who  simply  feels  happy  in 
living,  there  appeared  in  her  grey  eyes  an  expression  of  firm 
resolution,  a  resolution  to  shape  her  life  for  herself. 

'  It  is  true,'  the  mother  confessed  with  a  little  confusion, 
'  this  httle  girl  is  at  times  more  sensible  than  I  am  myself. 
Come,  pass  me  the  cutlet— it  is  welcome,  I  assure  you.  Lord  I 
how  hungry  I  was  ! ' 

The  meal  continued,  enlivened  by  the  constant  laughter 
of  Madame  Desagneaux  and  Eaymonde.  The  latter  was  very 
animated,  and  her  face,  which  was  already  growing  somewhat 
yellow  through  long  pining  for  a  suitor  again  assumed  the 
rosy  bloom  of  twenty.  They  had  to  eat  very  fast,  for  only 
ten  minutes  now  remained  to  them.  On  all  sides  one  heard 
the  growing  tumult  of  customers  who  feared  that  they  would 
not  have  time  to  take  their  coffee. 

All  at  once,  however,  Pierre  made  his  appearance :  a  fit 
of  stifling  had  again  come  over  La  Grivotte  ;  and  Madame  de 
Jonquiere  hastily  finished  her  artichoke  and  returned  to  her 
compartment,  after  kissing  her  daughter,  who  wished  her 
'  good  night '  in  a  facetious  way.  The  priest,  however,  had 
made  a  movement  of  surprise  on  perceiving  Madame  Volmar 
with  the  red  cross  of  the  lady-hospitallers  on  her  black 
bodice.  He  knew  her,  for  he  still  called  at  long  intervals  on 
old  Madame  Volmar,  the  diamond-merchant's  mother,  who 
had  been  one  of  his  own  mother's  friends.  She  was  the 
most  terrible  woman  in  the  world,  religious  beyond  aU  reason, 
BO  harsh  and  stern,  moreover,  as  to  close  the  very  window 


shutters  in  order  to  prevent  her  daughter-in-law  from  looking 
into  the  street.  And  he  knew  the  young  woman's  story,  how 
she  had  been  imprisoned  on  the  very  morrow  of  her  marriage, 
shut  up  between  her  mother-in-law,  who  tyrannised  over  her, 
and  her  husband,  a  repulsively  ugly  monster  who  went  so  far 
as  to  beat  her,  mad  as  he  was  with  jealousy,  although  he 
himself  kept  mistresses.  The  unhappy  woman  was  not 
allowed  out  of  the  house  excepting  it  were  to  go  to  mass. 
And  one  day,  at  La  Trmite,  Pierre  had  surprised  her  secret, 
on  seeing  her  behind  the  church  exchanging  a  few  hasty 
words  with  a  well-groomed,  distinguished-looking  man. 

The  priest's  sudden  appearance  in  the  refreshment-room 
had  somewhat  disconcerted  Madame  Vohnar. 

'  What  an  unexpected  meeting.  Monsieur  I'Abb^  I '  she 
said,  offering  him  her  long,  warm  hand.  '  What  a  long  tima 
it  is  since  I  last  saw  you  1 '  And  thereupon  she  explained 
that  this  was  the  third  year  she  had  gone  to  Lourdes,  her 
mother-in-law  having  required  her  to  join  the  Association  of 
Our  Lady  of  Salvation.  '  It  is  surprising  that  you  did  not 
see  her  at  the  station  when  wo  started,'  she  added.  '  She  sees 
me  into  the  train  and  comes  to  meet  me  on  my  return.' 

This  was  said  in  an  apparently  simple  way,  but  with  such 
a  subtle  touch  of  irony  that  Pierre  fancied  he  could  guess  the 
truth.  He  knew  that  she  reaUy  had  no  religious  principles 
at  aU,  and  that  she  merely  followed  the  rites  and  ceremonies 
of  the  Church  in  order  that  she  might  now  and  again  obtain 
an  hour's  freedom ;  and  aU  at  once  he  intuitively  realised 
that  someone  must  be  waiting  for  her  yonder,  that  it  wa"s-for 
the  purpose  of  meeting  him  that  she  was  thus  hastening 
to  Lourdes  with  her  shrinking  yet  ardent  air  and  flaming 
eyes,  which  she  so  prudently  shrouded  with  a  veil  of  lifeless 

'  For  my  part,'  he  answered, '  I  am  accompanying  a  friend 
of  my  childhood,  a  poor  girl  who  is  very  ill  indeed.  I  must 
ask  your  help  for  her  ;  you  shall  nm-se  her.' 

Thereupon  she  faintly  blushed,  and  he  no  longer  doubted 
the  truth  of  his  surmise.  However,  Baymonde  was  just 
then  settUng  the  bill  with  the  easy  assurance  of  a  girl  who 
is  expert  in  figures ;  and  immediately  afterwards  Madame 
Dfisagneaux  led  Madame  Vohnar  away.  The  waiters  were 
now  growing  more  distracted^  and  the  tables  were  fast  being 
vacated ;  for,  on  hearing  a  bell  ring,  everybody  had  begun  to 
rush  towards  the  door. 




Pierre,  on  his  side,  was  hasteuiug  back  to  his  carriage, 
when  he  was  stopped  by  an  old  priest.  '  Ah !  Monsieur  le 
Cur6,'  he  said, '  I  saw  yon  just  before  we  started,  but  I  was 
unable  to  get  near  enough  to  shake  hands  with  you.' 

Thereupon  he  offered  his  hand  to  his  brother  ecclesiastic, 
^^ho  was  looking  and  smiling  at  him  in  a  kindly  way.  The 
'  AbbS  Judaine  was  the  parish  priest  of  Saligny,  a  httle  village 
in  the  department  of  the  Oise.  Tall  and  sturdy,  he  had  a 
broad  pink  face,  around  which  clustered  a  mass  of  white, 
curly  hair,  and  it  could  be  divined  by  his  appearance  that  he 
was  a  worthy  man  whom  neither  the  flesh  nor  the  spirit  had 
ever  tormented.  He  believed  indeed  firmly  and  absolutely, 
with  a  tranquil  godliness,  never  having  known  a  struggle,  en- 
dowed as  he  was  with  the  ready  faith  of  a  child  unacquainted 
with  human  passions.  And  ever  since  the  Virgin  at  Lourdes 
had  cured  him  of  a  disease  of  the  eyes,  by  a  famous  miracle 
which  folks  still  talked  about,  his  belief  had  become  yet  more 
absolute  and  tender,  as  though  impregnated  with  divine 

'  '  I  am  pleased  that  you  are  with  us,  my  friend,'  he  gently 
said ;  '  for  there  is  much  in  these  pilgrimages  for  young  priests 
to  profit  by.  I  am  told  that  some  of  them  at  times  experience 
a  feeling  of  rebellion.  Well,  you  will  see  all  these  poor 
people  praying, — it  is  a  sight  which  will  make  you  weep. 
How  can  one  do  otherwise  than  place  oneself  in  God's  hands, 
on  seeing  so  much  sufiering  cured  or  consoled  ? ' 

The  old  priest  himself  was  accompanying  a  patient ,;  and 
he  pointed  to  a  first-class  compartment,  at  the  door  of  which 
hung  a  placard  bearing  the  inscription :  '  M.  I'Abbe  Judaine, 
Eeserved.'  Then  lowering  his  voice,  he  said :  '  It  is  Madame 
Dieulafay,  you  know,  the  great  banker's  wife.  Then*  chateau, 
a  royal  domain,  is  in  my  parish,  and  when  they  learned  that 
the  Blessed  Virgin  had  vouchsafed  me  such  an  undeserved 
favour,  they  begged  me  to  intercede  for  their  poor  sufferer. 
I  have  already  said  several  masses,  and  most  smeerely  pray 
for  her.  There,  you  see  her  yonder  on  the  ground.  She 
insisted  on  being  taken  out  of  the  carriage,  in  spite  of  all  the 
trouble  which  one  will  have  to  place  her  in  it  again.' 

On  a  shady  part  of  the  platform,  in  a  kind  of  long  box, 
there  was,  as  the  old  priest  said,  a  woman  whose  beautiful, 
perfectly  oval  face,  lighted  up  by  splendid  eyes,  denoted  no 
greater  age  than  six-and-twenty.  She  was  suilering  from  a 
frightful  disease.    The  disappearance  from  her  system  of  the 



calcareous  salts  had  led  to  a  softening  of  the  osseous  frame- 
work, the  slow  destruction  of  her  bones.  Three  years  pre-, 
viously,  after  the  advent  of  a  stillborn  child,  she  had  felt 
vague  pains  in  the  spinal  column.  And  then,  little  by  little, 
her  bones  had  rarefied  and  lost  shape,  the  verfcebrse  had  sunk, 
the  bones  of  the  pelvis  had  flattened,  and  those  of  the  arms 
and  legs  had  contracted.  Thus  shrunken,  melting  away  as 
it  were,  she  had  become  a  mere  human  remnant,  a  nameless 
fluid  thing,  which  could  not  be  set  erect,  but  had  to  be  carried 
hither  and  thither  with  infinite  care,  for  fear  lest  she  should 
vanish  between  one's  fingers.  Her  face,  a  motionless  face, 
on  which  sat  a  stupefied  imbecile  expression,  still  retained  its 
beauty  of  outline,  and  yet  it  was  impossible  to  gaze  at  this 
wretched  shred  of  a  woman  without  feeling  a  heart-pang, 
the  keener  on  account  of  all  the  luxury  surrounding  her ;  for 
not  only  was  the  box  in  which  she  lay  lined  with  blue  quilted 
silk,  but  she  was  covered  with  valuable  lace,  and  a  cap  of  rare 
Valenciennes  was  set  upon  her  head,  her  wealth  thus  being 
proclaimed,  displayed,  in  the  midst  of  her  awful  agony. 

'  Ah !  how  pitiable  it  is,'  resumed  the  Abb6  Judaine  in 
an  undertone.  'To  think  that  she  is  so  yoimg,  so  pretty, 
possessed  of  millions  of  money !  And  if  you  knew  how  dearly 
loved  she  was,  with  what  adoration  she  is  still  surrounded. 
That  tall  gentleman  near  her  is  her  husband,  that  elegantly 
dressed  lady  is  her  sister,  Madame  Jousseur.' 

Pierre  remembered  having  often  noticed  in  the  newspapers 
the  name  of  Madame  Jousseur,  wife  of  a  diplomatist,  and  a 
conspicuous  member  of  the  higher  spheres  of  Catholic  society 
in  Paris.  People  had  even  circulated  a  story  of  some  great 
passion  which  she  had  fought  against  and  vanquished.  She 
also  was  very  prettily  dressed,  with  marvellously  tasteful  sim- 
plicity, and  she  ministered  to  the  wants  of  her  sorry  sister 
with  an  air  of  perfect  devotion.  As  for  the  unhappy  woman's 
husband,  who  at  the  age  of  five-and-thirty  had  inherited  his 
father's  colossal  business,  he  was  a  clear-complexioned,  well- 
groomed,  handsome  man,  clad  in  a  closely  buttoned  frock- 
coat.  His  eyes,  however,  were  full  of  tears,  for  he  adored 
his  wife,  and  had  left  his  business  in  order  to  take  her  to 
Lourdes,  placing  his  last  hope  in  this  appeal  to  the  mercy  of 

Ever  since  the  morning,  Pierre  had  beheld  many  frightful 
sufferings  in  that  woeful  white  train.  But  none  had  so  dis- 
tressed his  soul  as  did  that  wretched  female  skeleton,  slowly 


liquefying  in  the  midst  of  its  lace  and  its  millions.  '  The 
unhappy  woman  ! '  he  murmured  with  a  shudder. 

The  Abb6  Judaine  however  made  a  gesture  of  serene  hope. 
'  The  Blessed  Virgin  \rill  cure  her,'  said  he ;  '  I  have  prayed 
to  her  so  much.' 

Just  then  a  bell  again  pealed,  and  this  time  it  was  really 
the  signal  for  starting.  Only  two  minutes  remained.  There 
was  a  last  rush,  and  folks  hurried  back  towards  the  train 
carrying  eatables  wrapped  in  paper,  and  bottles  and  cans 
"prhich  they  had  filled  with  water.  Several  of  them  quite  lost 
their  heads,  and  in  their  inability  to  find  their  carriages,  ran 
distractedly  from  one  to  the  other  end  of  the  train ;  whilst 
some  of  the  infirm  ones  dragged  themselves  about  amidst  the 
precipitate  tapping  of  crutches,  and  others,  only  able  to  walk 
with  difficulty,  strove  to  hasten  their  steps  whilst  leaning  on 
the  arms  of  some  of  the  lady-hospitaUers.  It  was  only  with 
infinite  difficulty  that  four  men  managed  to  replace  Madame 
Dieulafay  in  her  first-class  compartment.  The  Vignerons, 
who  were  content  with  second-class  accommodation,  had 
already  reinstalled  themselves  in  their  quarters  amidst  an 
extraordinary  heap  of  baskets,  boxes,  and  valises  which  scarcely 
allowed  little  Gustavo  enough  room  to  stretch  his  poor  puny 
limbs — the  limbs  as  it  were  of  a  deformed  insect.  And  then 
all  the  women  appeared  again :  Madame  Maze  gliding  along 
in  silence ;  Madame  Vincent  raising  her  dear  little  girl  in  her 
outstretched  arms  and  dreading  lest  she  should  hear  her  cry 
out ;  Madame  Vetu,  whom  it  had  been  necessary  to  push  into 
the  train,  after  rousing  her  from  her  stupefying  torment ;  and 
EUse  Eouquet,  who  was  quite  drenched  through  her  obstinacy 
in  endeavouring  to  drink  from  the  tap,  and  was  still  wiping 
her  monstrous  face.  Whilst  each  returned  to  her  place  and 
the  carriage  fiUed  once  more,  Marie  Hstened  to  her  father,  who 
had  come  back  delighted  with  his  stroU  to  a  pointsman's 
little  house  beyond  the  station,  whence  a  really  pleasant 
stretch  of  landscape  could  be  discerned. 

'  Shall  we  lay  you  down  again  at  once  ? '  asked  Pierre, 
sorely  distressed  by  the  pained  expression  on  Marie's  face. 

'  Oh  no,  no,  by-and-by  1.'  she  replied.  '  I  shall  have 
plenty  of  time  to  hear  those  wheels  roaring  in  my  head  as 
though  they  were  grinding  my  bones.' 

Then  as  Ferrand  seemed  on  the  point  of  returning  to  the 
cantine  van.  Sister  Hyaciuthe  begged  him  to  take  another  look 
at  the  strange  man  before  he  went  off,    ghe  was  still  waiting 


for  Father  Massiaa,  astonished  at  the  inexplicable  delay  in  his 
arrival,  but  not  yet  without  hope,  as  Sister  Claire  des  Angea 
had  not  returned. 

'  Pray,  Monsieur  Ferrand,'  said  she,  '  teU  me  if  this  un- 
fortunate man  is  in  any  immediate  danger.' 

The  young  doctor  again  loolied  at  the  sufferer,  felt  him,  and 
listened  to  his  breathing.  Then  with  a  gesture  of  discourage- 
ment he  answered  in  a  low  voice,  'I  feel  convinced  that 
you  will  not  get  him  to  Lourdes  alive. 

Every  head  was  still  anxiously  stretched  forward.  K  they 
had  only  known  the  man's  name,  the  place  he  had  come  from, 
who  he  was  1  But  it  was  impossible  to  extract  a  word  from 
this  unhappy  stranger,  who  was  about  to  die^  there,  in  that 
carriage,  without  anybody  being  able  to  give  his  face  a 
name ! 

It  suddenly  occurred  to  Sister  Hyaeinthe  to  have  him 
searched.  Under  the  circumstances  there  could  certainly  be 
no  harm  in  such  a  course.  '  Feel  in  his  pockets,  Monsieur 
Ferrand,'  she  said. 

The  doctor  thereupon  searched  the  man  in  a  gentle, 
cautious  way,  but  the  only  things  that  he  found  in  his  pockets 
were  a  chaplet,  a  knife,  and  three  sous.  And  nothing  more 
was  ever  learnt  of  the  man. 

At  that  moment,  however,  a  voice  announced  that  Sister 
Claire  des  Anges  was  at  last  coming  back  with  Father  Massias. 
All  this  while  the  latter  had  simply  been  chatting  with  the 
priest  of  Sainte-Eadegonde  in  one  of  the  waiting-rooms. 
Keen  emotion  attended  his  arrival ;  for  a  moment  all  seemed 
saved.  But  the  train  was  about  to  start,  the  porters  were 
already  closing  the  carriage  doors,  and  it  was  necessary  that 
extreme-unction  should  be  administered  in  aU  haste  in  order 
to  avoid  too  long  a  delay. 

'  This  way,  man  r6v6rend  pire  !  *  exclaimed  Sister  Hya- 
einthe ; '  yes,  yes,  pray  come  in,  our  unfortunate  patient  is 

Father  Massias,  who  was  five  years  older  than  Pierre, 
whose  fellow-student  however  he  had  been  at  the  seminary, 
had  a  tall  spare  figure  with  an  ascetic  countenance,  framed 
round  with  a  light-coloured  beard  and  vividly  lighted  up  by 
burning  eyes.  He  was  neither  the  priest  harassed  by  doubt, 
nor  the  priest  with  child-like  faith,  but  an  apostle  carried 
away  by  his  passion,  ever  ready  to  fight  and  vanquish  for  the 
pure  glory  of  the  Blessed  Virgin.    In  his  black  cloak  with  its 


large  hood,  and  his  broad  brimmed  flossy  hat,  he  shone 
resplendently  with  the  perpetual  ardour  of  battle. 

He  immediately  toX)k  from  his  pocket  the  silver  case 
containing  the  Holy  Oils,  -and  the  ceremony  began  whilst  the 
last  carriage  doors  were  being  slammed  and  belated  pilgrims 
were  rushing  back  to  the  train ;  the  station-master,  meantime, 
anxiously  glancing  at  the  clock  and  realising  that  it  would 
be  necessary  for  him  to  grant  a  few  minutes'  grace. 

'  Credo  in  unum  Deitm,'  hastily  murmured  the  Father, 

'  Arrten,'  replied  Sister  Hyaciathe  and  the  other  occupants 
of  the  carriage. 

Those  who  had  been  able  to  do  so  had  knelt  upon  the 
seats,  whilst  the  others  joined  their  hands,  or  repeatedly  made 
the  sign  of  the  cross  ;  and  when  the  murmured  prayers  were 
followed  by  the  Litanies  of  the  ritual,  every  voice  rose,  an 
ardent  desire  for  the  remission  of  the  man's  sins  and  for  his 
physical  and  spiritual  cure  winging  its  flight  heavenward  with 
each  successive  Kyfie  eleison.  Might  his  whole  life,  of  which 
they  knew  nought,  be  forgiven  him ;  might  he  enter,  stranger 
though  he  was,  in  triumph  into  the  Kingdom  of  God  1 

'  Ckriste,  exaudi  nos.' 

'  Ora  pro  nobis,  sancta  Dei  Genitrix.' 

Father  Massias  had  puUed  out  the  silver  needle  from 
which  hung  a  drop  of  holy  oil.  In  the  midst  of  such  a 
scramble,  with  the  whole  train  waiting — many  people  now 
thrusting  their  heads  out  of  the  carriage  windows  in  surprise 
at  the  delay  in  starting — ^he  could  not  think  of  following  the 
usual  practice,  of  anointing  in  turn  all  the  organs  of  the 
senses,  those  portals  of  the  soul  which  give  admittance  to 
evil.  He  must  content  himself,  as  the  rules  authorised  him 
to  do  in  pressing  cases,  with  one  anointment ;  and  this  he 
made  upon  the  man's  lips,  those  livid  parted  lips  from  between 
which  only  a  faint  breath  escaped,  whUst  the  rest  of  his  face, 
with  its  lowered  eyelids,  already  seemed  indistinct,  again 
merged  into  the  dust  of  the  earth. 

'  Per  istam  sanctam  unctionem,'  said  the  Father, '  et  mam 
jdissimam  misericordiam,  indulgent  tibi  Dominus  quidquid 
per  viswm,  auditum,  odoratum,  gustum,  tactum,  deUquisti.'  * 

The  remainder  of  the  ceremony  was  lost  amid  the  hurry 

•  Through  this  holy  unction  and  His  most  tender  mercy  may  the 
Iiord  pardon  thee  -whatever  sins  thou  bast  committed  by  thy  sight. 
bearing,  &e.  &e. 


and  scramble  of  the  departure.  Father  Massias  scarcely  had 
time  to  wipe  off  the  oil  with  the  little  piece  of  cotton  wool 
which  Sister  Hyacinthe  held  in  readiness,  before  he  had  to 
leave  the  compartment  and  get  into  his  own  as  fast  as 
possible,  setting  the  case  containing  the  Holy  Oils  in  order 
as  he  did  so,  whilst  the  pilgrims  finished  repeating  the  final 

'  We  cannot  wait  any  longer !  It  is  impossible  I '  repeated 
the  station-master  as  he  bustled  about.  '  Come,  come,  make 
haste  everybody  1 ' 

At  last  then  they  were  about  to  resume  their  journey. 
Everybody  sat  down,  returned  to  his  or  her  corner  again. 
Madame  de  Jonquiere,  however,  had  changed  her  place,  in 
order  to  be  nearer  La  Grivotte,  whose  condition  stUl  worried 
her,  and  she  was  now  seated  in  front  of  M.  Sabathier,  who 
remained  waiting  with  silent  resignation.  Moreover,  Sister 
Hyacinthe  had  not  returned  to  her  compartment,  having 
decided  to  remain  near  the  unknown  man  so  that  she  might 
watch  over  him  and  help  him.  By  following  this  course,  too, 
she  was  able  to  minister  to  Brother  Isidore,  whose  sufferings 
his  sister  Marthe  was  at  a  loss  to  assuage.  And  Marie, 
turning  pale,  felt  the  jolting  of  the  train  in  her  ailing  flesh, 
even  before  it  had  resumed  its  journey  under  the  heavy  sun, 
roUing  onward  once  more  with  its  load  of  sufferers  stifling  in 
the  pestilential  atmosphere  of  the  over-heated  carriages. 

At  last  a  loud  whistle  resounded;  the  engine  puffed,  and 
Sister  Hyacinthe  rose  up  to  say:  'The  Magnificat,  my 
children  I ' 



Just  as  the  train  was  beginning  to  move,  the  door  of  the 
compartment  in  which  Pierre  and  Marie  found  themselves 
was  opened  and  a  porter  pushed  a  girl  of  fourteen  inside,  say- 
ing :  '  There's  a  seat  here — make  haste  ! ' 

The  others  were  already  pulling  long  faces  and  were 
about  to  protest,  when  Sister  Hyacinthe  exclaimed :  '  What,  is 
it  you,  Sophie  ?  So  you  are  going  back  to  see  the  Blessed 
Virgin  who  cured  you  last  year  1 ' 


And  at  the  same  time  Madame,  de  Jonqui^re  remarked : — 
'Ah!  Sophie,  my  little  friend,  lam  very  pleased  to  see  that 
you  are  grateful.' 

•Why,  yes,  Sister  I  why,  yes,  madame,'  answered  the  girl,  in 
a  pretty  way.  r 

The  carriage  door  had  already  been  closed  again,  so  that 
it  was  necessary  that  they  should  accept  the  presence  of  this 
new  pUgrim  who  had  fallen  from  heaven  as  it  were  at  the  very 
moment  when  the  train,  which  she  had  almost  missed,  was 
starting  off  again.  She  was  a  slender  damsel  and  would  not 
take  up  much  room.  Moreover  these  ladies  knew  her,  and  all 
the  patients  had  turned  their  eyes  upon  her  on  hearing  that 
the  Blessed  Virgin  had  been  pleased  to  cure  her.  They  had 
now  got  beyond  the  station,  the  engine  was  still  puffing,  whilst 
the  wheels  increased  their  speed,  and  Sister  Hyacinthe,  clap- 
ping her  hands,  repeated:  'Come,  come,  my  children,  the 

Whilst  the  joyful  chant  arose  amidst  the  jolting  of  the 
train,  Pierre  gazed  at  Sophie.  She  was  evidently  a  young 
peasant  girl,  the  daughter  of  some  poor  husbandman  of  the 
vicinity  of  Poitiers,  petted  by  her  parents,  treated  in  fact  like 
a  young  lady  since  she  had  become  the  object  of  a  miracle, 
one  of  the  elect,  whom  the  priests  of  the  district  flocked  to  see. 
She  wore  a  straw  hat  with  pink  ribbons,  and  a  grey  woollen 
dress  trimmed  with  a  flounce.  Her  round  face  although  not 
pretty  was  a  very  pleasant  one,  with  a  beautifully  fresh  com- 
plexion and  clear,  intelUgent  eyes  which  lent  her  a  smiUng 
modest  air. 

When  the  Magnificat  had  been  sung  Pierre  was  unable  to 
resist  his  desire  to  question  Sophie.  A  child  of  her  age,  with 
so  candid  an  air,  so  utterly  unlike  a-  liar,  greatly  interested 

'  And  so  you  nearly  missed  the  train,  my  child  ? '  he  said. 

'  I  should  have  been  much  ashamed  if  I  had.  Monsieur 
I'Abb^,'  she  replied.  '  I  had  been  at  the  station  since  twelve 
o'clock.  And  all  at  once  I  saw  his  reverence  the  priest  of 
Sainte-Eadegonde,  who  knows  me  well  and  who  called  me  to 
him,  to  kiss  me  and  teU  me  that  it  was  very  good  of  me  to  go 
back  to  Lourdes.  But  it  seems  the  train  was  starting  and  I 
only  just  had  time  to  run  on  to  the  platform.  Oh  1 1  ran  so 
fast  1 ' 

She  paused,  laughing,  still  slightly  out  of  breath,  but 
already  repenting  that  she  had  been  so  giddy. 


'  And  what  is  your  name,  my  child  ? '  asked  Pierre. 

'  Sophie  Couteau,  Monsieur  I'Abbe.' 

'  You  do  not  belong  to  the  town  of  Poitiers  ?  ' 

'  Oh  no  1  certainly  not.  We  belong  to  Vivonne,  which  is 
seven  kilometres  away.  My  father  and  mother  have  a  little 
land  there,  and  things  would  not  be  so  bad  if  there  were  not 
eight  children  at  home — I  am  the  fifth — fortunately  the  four 
elder  ones  are  beginning  to  work.' 

*  And  you,  my  child,  what  do  you  do  ?  ' 

'  I,  Monsieur  I'Abb^ !  Oh !  I  am  no  great  help.  Since  last 
year,  when  I  came  home  cured,  I  have  not  been  left  quiet  a 
single  day,  for,  as  you  can  understand,  so  many  people  have 
come  to  see  me,  and  then  too  I  have  been  taken  to  Mon- 
seigneur's,*  and  to  the  convents  and  all  manner  of  other 
places.  And  before  all  that  I  was  a  long  time  ill.  I  could 
not  walk  without  a  stick,  and  each  step  I  took  made  me  cry 
out,  so  dreadfully  did  my  foot  hurt  me.' 

'  So  it  was  of  some  injury  to  the  foot  that  the  Blessed 
Virgin  cured  you  ? ' 

Sophie  did  not  have  time  to  reply,  for  Sister  Hyacinthe, 
who  was  listening,  intervened :  '  Of  caries  of  the  bones  of  the 
left  heel,  which  had  been  going  on  for  three  years,'  said  she. 
'  The  foot  was  swollen  and  quite  deformed,  and  there  were 
fistulas  giving  egress  to  continual  suppuration.' 

On  hearing  this,  all  the  sufferers  in  the  carriage  became 
intensely  interested.  They  no  longer  took  their  eyes  off  this 
little  girl  on  whom  a  miracle  had  been  performed,  but  scanned 
her  from  head  to  foot  as  though  seeking  for  some  sign  of  tho 
prodigy.  Those  who  were  able  to  stand  rose  up  in  order  that 
they  might  the  better  see  her,  and  the  others,  the  infirm 
ones,  stretched  on  their  mattresses,  strove  to  raise  themselves 
and  turn  their  heads.  Amidst  the  suffering  which  had  aigain 
come  upon  them  on  leaving  Poitiers,  the  terror  which  filled 
them  at  the  thought  that  they  must  continue  rolling  onward 
for  another  fifteen  hours,  the  sudden  advent  of  this  child, 
favoured  by  Heaven,  was  like  a  divine  reUef,  a  ray  of  hope 
whence  they  would  derive  sufficient  strength  to  accomplish 
the  remainder  of  their  terrible  journey.  The  moaning  had 
abated  somewhat  already,  and  every  face  was  turned  towards 
the  girl  with  an  ardent  desire  to  believe. 

This  was  especially  the  case  with  Marie,  who,  already 
reviving,  joined  her  trembling  hands,  and  in  a  gentle  suppli< 

*  The  Bishop's  residence. 


eating  voice  said  to  Pierre :  '  Question  her,  pray  question  her, 
ask  her  to  tell  us  everything— cured,  0  God  I  cured  of  such  a 
terrible  complaint ! ' 

Madame  de  Jonquiere,  who  was  quite  affected,  had  leant 
over  the  partition  to  kiss  the  girl.  '  Certainly,'  said  she,  '  our 
little  friend  will  tell  you  all  about  it.  Won't  you,  my  darUng  ? 
You  will  tell  us  what  the  Blessed  Vhgin  did  for  you  ? ' 

'  Oh,  certainly  I  madame — as  much  as  you  hke,'  answered 
Sophie  with  her  smiling,  modest  air,  her  eyes  gleamiug  with 
intelligence.  Indeed,  she  wished  to  begin  at  once,  and  raised 
her  right  hand  with  a  pretty  gesture,  as  a  sign  to  everybody 
to  be  attentive.  Plainly  enough,  she  had  already  acquired  the 
habit  of  speaking  in  public. 

She  could  not  be  seen,  however,  from  some  parts  of  the 
carriage,  and  an  idea  came  to  Sister  Hyacinthe,  who  said : 
'  Get  up  on  the  seat,  Sophie,  and  speak  loudly,  on  account  of 
the  noise  which  the  train  makes." 

This  amused  the  girl,  and  before  beginning  she  needed 
time  to  become  serious  again.  '  Well,  it  was  like  this,'  said 
she ; '  my  foot  was  past  cure,  I  couldn't  even  go  to  church  any 
more,  and  it  had  to  be  kept  bandaged,  because  there  was 
always  a  lot  of  nasty  matter  coming  from  it.  Monsieur 
Eivoire,  the  doctor,  who  had  made  a  cut  in  it,  so  as  to  see 
inside  it,  said  that  he  should  be  obliged  to  take  out  a  piece  of 
the  bone  ;  and  that,  sure  enough,  would  have  made  me  lame 
for  life.  But  when  I  had  got  to  Lourdes  and  had  prayed  a 
great  deal  to  the  Blessed  Virgin,  I  went  to  dip  my  foot  in  the 
water,  wishing  so  much  that  I  might  be  cured  that  I  did  not 
even  take  the  time  to  puU  the  bandage  off.  And  everything 
remained  in  the  water,  there  was  no  longer  anything  the 
matter  with  my  foot  when  I  took  it  out.' 

A  murmur  of  mingled  surprise,  wonder,  and  desire  arose 
and  spread  among  those  who  heard  this  marvellous  tale,  so 
sweet  and  soothing  to  all  who  were  in  despair.  But  the  little 
one  had  not  yet  finished.  She  had  simply  paused.  And 
now,  making  a  fresh  gesture,  holding  her  arms  somewhat 
apart,  she  concluded:  'When  I  got  back  to  Vivonne  and 
Monsieur  Eivoire  saw  my  foot  again,  he  said  :  "  Whether  it 
be  God  or  the  Devil  who  has  cured  this  child,  it  is  all  the 
same  to  me  ;  but  in  all  truth  she  is  cured." ' 

This  time  a  burst  of  laughter  rang  out.  The  girl  spoke 
in  too  recitative  a  way,  having  repeated  her  story  so  many 
times  already  that  she  knew   it  by  heart.    The  doctor's 


remark  was  sure  to  produce  an  effect,  and  slie  herself  laughed 
at  it  in  advance,  certain  as  she  was  that  the  others  would 
laugh  also.  However,  she  still  retained  her  candid,  touching 

But  she  had  evidently  forgotten  some  particular,  for 
Sister  Hyacinthe,  a  glance  from  whom  had  foreshadowed  the 
doctor's  jest,  now  softly  prompted  her  :  '  And  what  was  it  you 
said  to  Madame  la  Comtesse,  the  superintendent  of  your  ward, 

'  Ah !  yes.  I  hadn't  brought  many  bandages  for  my  foot 
with  me,  and  I  said  to  her,  "It  was  very  kind  of  the  Blessed 
Virgin  to  cure  me  the  first  day,  as  I  should  have  run  out  of 
linen  on  the  morrow."  ' 

This  provoked  a  fresh  outburst  of  delight.  They  all 
thought  her  so  nice,  to  have  been  cured  like  that !  And  in 
reply  to  a  question  from  Madame  de  Jonquifire,  she  also  had 
to  tell  the  story  of  her  boots,  a  pair  of  beautiful  new  boots 
which  Madame  la  Comtesse  had  given  her,  and  in  which  she 
had  run,  jumped,  and  danced  about,  full  of  childish  deUght. 
Boots  !  think  of  it,  she  who  for  three  years  had  not  even  been 
able  to  wear  a  slipper. 

Pierre,  who  had  become  grave,  waxing  pale  with  the  secret 
uneasiness  which  was  penetrating  him,  continued  to  look  at 
her.  And  he  also  asked  her  other  questions.  She  was  cer- 
tainly not  lying,  and  he  merely  suspected  a  slow  distortion 
of  the  actual  truth,  an  easily  explained  embeUishment  of  the 
real  facts  amidst  all  the  joy  she  felt  at  being  cured  and 
becoming  an  important  httle  personage.  Who  now  knew  if 
the  cicatrisation  of  her  injuries,  effected,  so  it  was  asserted, 
completely,  instantaneously,  in  a  few  seconds,  had  not  in 
reality  been  the  work  of  days  ?    Where  were  the  witnesses  ? 

Just  then  Madame  de  JonquiSre  began  to  relate  that  she 
had  been  at  the  hospital  at  the  time  referred  to.  '  Sophie  was 
not  in  my  ward,'  said  she, '  but  I  had  met  her  walking  lame 
that  very  morning ' 

Pierre  hastily  interrupted  the  lady-hospitaller.  '  Ah  1  you 
saw  her  foot  before  and  after  the  immersion  ? ' 

'  No,  no  !  I  don't  think  that  anybody  was  able  to  see  it, 
for  it  was  bound  round  with  bandages.  She  told  you  that 
the  bandages  had  fallen  into  the  piscina.'  And,  turning 
towards  the  child,  Madame  de  Jonquike  added,  'But  she 
will  show  you  her  foot — won't  you,  Sophie?  Undo  your 


The  girl  took  off  her  shoe,  -and  pulled  down  her  stocking, 
with  a  promptness  and  ease  of  manner  which  showed  how 
thoroughly  accustomed  she  had  become  to  it  all.  And  she 
not  only  stretched  out  her  foot,  which  was  very  clean  and 
very  white,  carefully  tended  indeed,  with  weU-out,  pink  nails, 
but  complacently  turned  it  so  that  the  young  priest- might 
examine  it  at  his  ease.  Just  below  the  ankle  there  was  a 
long  sear,  whose  whity  seam,  plainly  deiined,  testified  to. 
the  gravity  of  the  complaint  from  which  the  girl  had 

'  Oh !  take  hold  of  the  heel.  Monsieur  I'Abb^,'  said  she. 
'  Press  it  as  hard  as  you  hke.    I  no  longer  feel  any  pain  at  all.' 

Pierre  made  a  gesture  from  which  it  might  have  been 
thought  that  he  was  delighted  with  the  power  exercised  by  the 
Blessed  Virgin.  But  he  was  still  tortured  by  doubt.  What 
unknown  force  had  acted  in  this  case?  Or  rather  what 
faulty  medical  diagnosis,  what  assemblage  of  errors  and  exagge- 
rations, had  ended  in  this  fine  tale  ? 

All  the  patients,  however,  wished  to  see  the  miraculous 
foot,  that  outward  and  visible  sign  of  the  divine  cure  which 
each  of  them  was  going  in  search  of.  And  it  was  Marie, 
sitting  up  in  her  box,  and  already  feeling  less  pain,  who 
touched  it  first.  Then  Madame  Maze,  quite  roused  from  her 
melancholy,  passed  it  on  to  Madame  Vincent,  who  would  have 
kissed  it  for  the  hope  which  it  restored  to  her.  M.  Sabathier 
had  listened  to  all  the  explanations  with  a  beatific  air ; 
Madame  Vetu,  La  Grivotte,  and  even  Brother  Isidore  opened 
their  eyes,  and  evinced  signs  of  interest ;  whilst  the  face  of  Elise 
Eouquet  had  assumed  an  extraordinary  expression,  trans- 
figured by  faith,  almost  beatified.  If  a  sore  had  thus 
disappeared,  might  not  her  own  sore  close  and  disappear,  her 
face  retaining  no  trace  of  it  save  a  slight  scar,  and-ag^u 
becoming  such  a  face  as  other  people  had  ?  Sophie,  who^^s 
stUl  standing,  had  to  hold  on  to  one  of  the  iron  rails,  and 
place  her  foot  on  the  partition,  now  on  the  right,  now  on  the 
left.  And  she  did  not  weary  of  it  all,  but  felt  exceedingly 
happy  and  proud  at  the  many  exclamations  which  were  raised, 
the  quivering  admiration  and  religious  respect  which  were 
bestowed  on  that  little  piece  of  her  person,  that  little  foot 
which  had  now,  so  to  say,  become  sacred. 

'One  must  possess  great  faith,  no  doubt,'  said  Marie, 
thinking  aloud.  '  One  must  have  a  pure  unspotted  soul.' 
And,  addressing  herself  to  M.  de  Guersaint,  she  added;- 


'  Father,  I  feel  that  I  should  get  well  if  I  were  ten  years  old, 
if  I  had  the  unspotted  soul  of  a  little  girl.' 

*  But  you  are  ten  years  old,  my  darling !  Is  it  not  so, 
Pierre  ?  A  little  girl  of  ten  years  old  could  not  have  a  more 
spotless  soul.' 

Possessed  of  a  mind  prone  to  chimeras,  M.  de  Guersaint 
was  fond  of  hearing  tales  of  miracles.  As  for  the  young 
priest,  profoundly  ^eoted  by  the  ardent  purity  which  the 
young  girl  evinced,  he  no  longer  sought  to  discuss  the 
question,  but  let  her  surrender  herself  to  the  eonsoUng 
illusions  which  Sophie's  tale  had  wafted  through  the 

The  temperature  had  become  yet  more  oppressive  since 
their  departure  from  Poitiers,  a  storm  was  rising  in  the 
coppery  sky,  and  it  seemed  as  though  the  train  were  rushing 
through  a  furnace.  The  villages  passed,  mournful  and 
solitary  under  the  burning  sun.  At  Couh6-Verao  they  had 
again  said  their  chaplets,  and  sung  another  canticle.  At 
present,  however,  there  was  some  slight  abatement  of  the 
religious  exercises.  Sister  Hyaciathe,  who  had  not  yet  been 
able  to  lunch,  ventured  to  eat  a  roll  and  some  fruit  in  all 
haste,  whilst  still  ministering  to  the  strange  man  whose  faint, 
painful  breathing  seemed  to  have  become  more  regular.  And 
it  was  only  on  passing  Euffee  at  three  o'clock  that  they  said 
the  vespers  of  the  Blessed  Virgin. 

'  Ora  pro  nobis,  saneta  Dei  Genitrix.' 

'  Ut  digni  efficiamur  proviissionihus  Christi.  '* 

As  they  were  finishing,  M.  Sabathier,  who  had  watched 
little  Sophie  while  she  put  on  her  shoe  and  stocking,  turned 
towards  M.  de  Guersaint. 

'  This  child's  case  is  interesting  no  doubt,'  he  remarked. 
'  But  it  is  a  mere  nothing,  monsieur,  for  there  have  been  far 
more  marvellous  cures  than  that.  Do  you  know  the  story  of 
Pierre  de  Eudder,  a  Belgian  working-man  ? ' 

Everybody  had  again  begun  to  listen. 

'  This  man,'  continued  M.  Sabathier,  '  had  his  leg  broken 
by  the  fall  of  a  tree.  Eight  years  afterwards  the  two  frag- 
ments of  the  bone  had  not  yet  joined  together  again — the  two 
ends  could  be  seen  in  the  depths  of  a  sore  which  was  con- 
tinually suppurating;  and  the  leg  hung  down  quite  limp, 
swaying  in  all  directions.    Well,  it  was  sufficient  for  this  man 

•  '  Pray  for  ns,  0  holy  Mother  of  God,'  '  That  we  may  be  mad? 
worthy  of  the  promises  of  Christ.' 


fco  drink  a  glassful  of  the  miraculous  water,  and  his  leg  was 
made  whole  again.  He  was  able  to  walk  without  crutches, 
and  the  doctor  said  to  him :  "  Your  leg  is  like  that  of  a  new- 
born chUd."    Yes,  indeed,  a  perfectly  new  leg  1 ' 

Nobody  spoke,  but  the  listeners  exchanged  glances  of 

'  ^d  by  the  way,'  resumed  M.  Sabathier, '  it  is  like  the 
story  of  Louis  Bouriette,  a  quarryman,  one  of  the  first  of  the 
Lourdcs  miracles.  Do  you  know  it  ?  Bouriette  had  been 
injured  by  an  explosion  during  some  blasting  operations. 
The  sight  of  his  right  eye  was  altogether  destroyed,  and  ho 
was  even  threatened  with  the  loss  of  the  left  one.  Well,  one 
day  he  sent  his  daughter  to  fetch  a  bottleful  of  the  muddy 
water  of  the  source,  which  then  scarcely  bubbled  up  to  the 
surface.  He  washed  his  eye  with  this  muddy  liquid,  and 
prayed  fervently.  And,  all  at  once,  he  raised  a  cry,  for  he 
could  see,  monsieur,  see  as  well  as  you  and  I.  The  doctor 
who  was  attending  him  drew  up  a  detailed  narrative  of  the 
case,  and  there  cannot  be  the  slightest  doubt  about  its 

'It  is  marvellous,'  murmured  M.  de  Guersaint  in  hia 

'  Would  you  like  another  example,  monsieur  ?  I  can  give 
you  a  famous  one,  that  of  Fran9oi3  Macary,  the  carpenter  of 
Lavaur.  During  eighteen  years  he  had  suffered  from  a  deep 
varicose  ulcer,  with  considerable  enlargement  of  the  tissues  in 
the  mesial  part  of  the  left  leg.  He  had  reached  such  a  point 
that  he  could  no  longer  move,  and  science  decreed  that  he  would 
for  ever  remain  infirm.  Well,  one  evening,  he  shuts  himself 
up  with  a  bottle  of  Lourdes  water.  He  takes  off  his  bandages, 
washes  both  his  legs,  and  drinks  what  little  water  then 
remains  in  the  bottle.  Then  he  goes  to  bed  and  falls  asleep ; 
and  when  he  awakes,  he  feels  his  legs  and  looks  at  them. 
There  is  nothing  left ;  the  varicose  enlargement,  the  ulcers, 
have  .ail  disappeared.  The  skin  of  his  knee,  monsieur,  had 
become  as  smooth,  as  fresh  as  it  had  been  when  he  was  twenty.' 

This  time  there  was  an  explosion  of  surprise  and  admira- 
tion. The  patients  and  the  pilgrims  were  entering  into  the 
enchanted  land  of  miracles,  where  impossibihties  are  accom- 
plished at  each  bend  of  the  pathways,  where  one  marches  on 
at  ease  from  prodigy  to  prodigy.  And  each  had  his  or  her 
story  to  tell,  burning  with  a  desire  to  contribute  a  fresh  proof, 
to  fortify  fsjitb  and  hope  by  yet  another  example. 

64  tOURDES 

That  silent  creature,  Madame  Maze,  waa  so  transported 
that  she  spoke  the  first.  '  I  have  a  friend,'  said  she,  '  who 
knew  the  widow  Bizan,  that  lady  whose  cure  also  created  so 
great  a  stir.  For  four-and- twenty  years  her  left  side  had  been 
entirely  paralysed.  Her  stomach  was  unable  to  retain  any 
solid  food,  and  she  had  become  an  inert  bag  of  bones  which 
had  to  be  turned  over  in  bed.  The  friction  of  the  sheets,  too, 
had  ended  by  rubbing  her  skin  away  in  parts.  Well,  she  was 
so  low  one  evening  that  the  doctor  announced  that  she  would 
die  during  the  night.  An  hour  later,  however,  she  emerged 
from  her  torpor  and  asked  her  daughter  in  a  faint  voice 
to  go  and  fetch  her  a  glass  of  Lourdes  water  at  a  neighbour's. 
But  she  was  only  able  to  obtain  this  glass  of  water  on  the 
following  morning ;  and  she  cried  out  to  her  daughter :  "Oh! 
it  is  life  that  I  am  drinking — rub  my  face  with  it,  rub  my 
arm  and  my  leg,  rub  my  whole  body  with  it !  "  And  when 
her  daughter  obeyed  her,  she  gradually  saw  the  huge  swelling 
subside,  and  the  paralysed,  tumefied  limbs  recover  their 
natural  suppleness  and  appearance.  Nor  was  that  all,  for 
Madame  Eizan  cried  out  that  she  was  cured  and  felt  hungry, 
and  wanted  bread  and  meat — she  who  had  eaten  none  for 
four-and-twenty  years  !'  And  she  got  out  of  bed  and  dressed 
herself,  whilst  her  daughter,  who  was  so  overpowered  that 
the  neighbours  thought  she  had  become  an  orphan;  replied 
to  them :  "  No,  no,  mamma  isn't  dead,  she  has  come  to  life 
again !  "  ' 

This  narrative  had  brought  tears  to  Madame  Vincent's 
eyes.  Ah !  if  she  had  only  been  able  to  see  her  little  Eose 
recover  like  that,  eat  with  a  good  appetite  and  run  about 
again  1  At  the  same  time,  another  case,  which  she  had  been 
told  of  in  Paris  and  which  had  greatly  influenced  her  in 
deciding  to  take  her  ailing  child  to  Lourdes,  returned  to  her 

'  And  I  too,'  said  she, '  know  the  story  of  a  girl  who  was 
paralysed.  Her  name  was  Lucie  Druon,  and  she  was  an 
inmate  of  an  orphan  asylum.  She  was  quite  young  and  could 
not  even  kneel  down.  Her  limbs  were  bent  like  hoops.  Her 
right  leg,  the  shorter  of  the  two,  had  ended  by  becoming 
twisted  round  the  left  one ;  and  when  any  of  the  other  girls 
carried  her  about  you  saw  her  feet  hanging  down  quite  limp, 
like  dead  ones.  Please  notice  that  she  did  not  even  go  to 
Lourdes.  She  simply  performed  a  novena ;  but  she  fasted 
during  the  nine  days,  and  her  desire  to  be  cured  was  so  great 


that  she  spent  her  nights  in  prayer.  At  last,  on  the  ninth 
day,  whilst  she  was  drinking  a  little  Lourdes  water,  she  felt 
a  violent  commotion  in  her  legs.  She  picked  herself  up,  fell 
down,  picked  herself  up  again  aioA  walked.  All  her  little  com- 
panions, who  were  astonished,  almost  frightened  at  the  sight, 
began  to  cry  out :  "  Lucie  can  walk !  Lucie  can  walk  1 "  It 
was  quite  true.  In  a  few  seconds  her  legs  had  become  straight 
and  strong  and  healthy.  She  crossed  the  courtyard  and  was 
able  to  climb  up  the  steps  of  the  chapel,  where  the  whole 
sisterhood,  transported  with  gratitude,  chanted  the  Magnificat. 
Ah !  the  dear  child,  how  happy,  how  happy  she  must  have  been ! ' 

As  Madame  Vincent  finished  two  tears  fell  from  her 
cheeks  on  to  the  pale  face  of  her  Uttle  girl,  whom  she  kissed 

The  general  interest  was  still  increasing,  becoming  quite 
impassioned.  The  rapturous  joy  born  of  these  beautiful 
stories,  in  which  Heaven  invariably  triumphed  over  human 
reality,  transported  these  child-like  souls  to  such  a  point 
that  those  who  were  suffering  the  most  grievously  sat  up  in 
their  turn,  and  recovered  the  power  of  speech.  And  with 
the  narratives  of  one  and  aU  was  blended  a  thought  of  the 
sufferer's  own  particular  ailment,  a  belief  that  he  or  she 
would  also  be  cured,  since  a  malady  of  the  same  description 
had  vanished  like  an  evil  dream  beneath  the  breath  of  the 

'  Ah  I '  stammered  Madame  Vetu,  her  articulation  hin- 
dered by  her  sufferings,  '  there  was  another  one,  Antoinette 
Thardivail,  whose  stomach  was  being  eaten  away  like  mine. 
You  would  have  said  that  dogs  were  devouring  it,  and  some- 
times there  was  a  swelling  in  it  as  big  as  a  child's  head. 
Tumours  indeed  were  ever  forming  in  it,  like  fowl's  eggs,  so 
that  for  eight  months  she  brought  up  blood.  And  she  also 
was  at  the  point  of  death,  with  nothing  but  her  skin  left  on 
her  bones,  and  dying  of  hunger,  when  she  drank  some  water 
of  Lourdes  and  had  the  pit  of  her  stomach  washed  vrith  it. 
Three  minutes  afterwards,  her  doctor,  who  on  the  previous 
day  had  left  her  almost  in  the  last  throes,  scarce  breathing, 
found  her  up  and  sitting  by  the  fireside,  eating  a  tender 
chicken's  wing  with  a  good  appetite.  She  had  no  more 
tumours,  she  laughed  as  she  had  laughed  when  she  was 
twenty,  and  her  face  had  regained  the  briUianey  of  youth. 
Ah !  to  be  able  to  eat  what  one  likes,  to  become  young  again, 
to  cease  suffering  1 ' 



■ '  And  the  cure  of  Sister  Julienne  I '  then  exclaimed  La 
Giivotte,  .raising  herself  on  one  of  her  elbows,  her  eyes 
glittering  with  fever.  '  In  her  ease  it  commenced  with  a  bad 
cold  as  it  did  with  me,  and  then  she  began  to  spit  blood. 
And  every  six  months  she  fell  Ul  again  and  had  to  take  to  her 
ibed.  The  last  time  everybody  said  that  she  wouldn't  leave  it 
,*  aUve.  The  doctors  had  vainly  tried  every  remedy,  iodine,. 
■  bUstering,  and  cauterising.  In  fact,  hers  was  a  real  case  of 
phthisis,  certified  by  half-a-idozen  medical  men.  Well,  she 
comes  to  Lonrdes,  and  Heaven  alone  knows  amidst  what 
awful  suffering — she  was  so  bad,  indeed,  -that  at  Toulouse 
they, thought  for. a  moment  that  she  was  about  to  die !  The 
Sisters  had  to  carry  her  in  their  arms,  and  on  reaching  the 
piscina  the  lady-hospitallers  wouldn't  bathe  her.  She  was 
dead,  they  said.  No  matter !  she  was  undressed  at  last,  and 
plunged  into  the  water,  quite  unconscious  and  covered  with 
.perspiration.  And  when  they  took  her  out  she  was  so  pale 
.that  they  laid  her  on  the  ground,  thinking  that  it  was 
certainly  all  over  with  her  at  last.  But,  all  at  once,  colour 
came  back  to  her  cheeks,  her  eyes  opened,  and  she  drew  a 
long  breath.  She  was  cured;  she  dressed  herseK  without 
any  help  and  made  a  good  meal  after  she  had  been  to  the 
Grotto  to  thank  the  Blessed  Virgin.  There!  there's  no 
gainsaying  it,  that  was  a  real  case  of  phthisis,  completely  cured 
as  though  by  medicine ! ' 

Thereupon  Brother  Isidore  in  his  turn  wished  to  speak ; 
but  he  was  unable  to  do  so  at  any  length,  and  could  only 
with  difficulty  manage  to  say  to  his  sister:  'Marthe,  tell 
them  the  story  of  Sister  Dorothee  which  the  priest  of  Saint- 
Bauveur  related  to  us.' 

'  Sister  Dorothde,'  began  the  peasant  girl  in  an  awkward 
way,  '  felt  her  leg  quite  numbed  when  she  got  up  one  morn- 
ing, and  from  that  time  she  lost  the  use  of  it,  for  it  got  as 
cold  and  as  heavy  as  a  stone.  Besides  which  she  felt  a  great 
pain  in  the  back.  The  doctors  couldn't  understand  it.  She 
saw  half-a-dozen  of  them  who  pricked  her  with  pins  and 
burnt  her  skin  with  a  lot  of  drugs.  But  it  was  just  as  if  they 
had  sung  to  her.  Sister  Dorothee  had  well  understood  that 
only  the  Blessed  Virgin  could  find  the  right  remedy  for  her, 
and  so  she  went  off  to  Lourdes,  and  had  herself  dipped  in  the 

Eiscina.     She  thought  at  first  that  the  water  was  going  to  kill 
er,  for  it  was  so  bitterly  cold.    But  by-and-by  it  became  so 
eoft  that  she  fancied  it  was  warm,  as  nice  as  milk.    She  had 


never  felt  so  mce  before,  it  seemed  to  her  as  if  her  veins  were 
qpening  and  the  water  were  flowing  into  them.  As  you  will 
understand,  life  was  returning  into  her  body  since  the 
Blessed  Virgin  was  concerning  herself  in  the  case.  She  no 
longer  had  anything  the  matter  with  her  when  she  came 
out,  but  walked  about,  ate  the  whole  of  a  pigeon  for  her 
dinner,  and  slept  all  night  long  hke  the  happy  woman  she 
was.  Glory  to  the  Blessed  Virgin,  eternal  gratitude  to  the 
most  Powerful  Mother  and  her  Divine  Son ! ' 

Elise  Bouquet  would  also  have  liked  to  bring  forward  a 
miracle  which  she  was  acquainted  with.  Only  she  spoke 
with  so  much  difficulty  owing  to  the  deformity  of  her  mouth, 
that  she  had  not  yet  been  able  to  secure  a  turn.  Just  then, 
however,  there  was  a  pause,  and  drawing  the  wrap,  which 
concealed  the  horror  of  her  sore,  slightly  on  one  side,  she 
profited  by  the  opportunity  to  begin. 

'  For  my  part,  I  wasn't  told  anything  about  a  great  illness, 
but  it  was  a  very  funny  case  at  aU.  events,'  she  said.  *  It  was 
about  a  woman,  C61estine  Dubois,  as  she  was  called,  who  had 
run  a  needle  right  into  her  hand  whUe  she  was  washing.  It 
stopped  there  for  seven  years,  -for  no  doctor  was  able  to  take 
it  out.  Her  hand  shrivelled  up,  and  she  could  no  longer  open 
it.  Well,  she  got  to  Lourdes,  and  dipped  her  hand  in  the 
piscina.  But  as  soon  as  she  did  so  she  began  to  shriek,  and 
took  it  out  again.  Then  they  caught  hold  of  her  and  put  her 
hand  into  the  water  by  force,  and  kept  it  there  while  she 
continued  sobbing,  with  her  face  covered  with  sweat.  Three 
times  did  they  plunge  her  hand  into  the  piscina,  and  each 
time  they  saw  the  needle  moving  along,  tUL  it  came  out  by 
the  tip  of  the  thumb.  She  shrieked,  of  course,  because  the 
needle  was  moving  through  her  flesh  just  as  though  some- 
body had  been  pushing  it  to  drive  it  out.  And  after  that 
Celestine  never  suffered  again,  and  only  a  Httle  scar  could  be 
seen  on  her  hand  as  a  mark  of  what  the  Blessed  Virgin  had 

This  anecdote  produced  a  greater  effect  than  even  the 
miraculous  cures  of  the  most  fearful  illnesses.  A  needle 
which  moved  as  though  somebody  were  pushing  it !  This 
peopled  the  Invisible,  showed  each  sufferer  his  Guardian 
Angel  standing  behind  him,  only  awaiting  the  orders  of 
Heaven  in  order  to  render  him  assistance.  And  besides,  how 
pretty  and  childlike  the  story  was — this  needle  which  came 
©ut  in  the  miraculous  water  after  obstinately  refusing  to  stic 


during  seven  long  years.  Exclamations  of  delight  resounded 
from  all  the  pleased  listeners ;  they  smiled  and  laughed  with 
satisfaction,  radiant  at  finding  that  nothing  was  beyond  the 
power  of  Heaven,  and  that  if  it  were  Heaven's  pleasure  they 
themselves  would  aU  become  healthy,  young,  and  superb.  It 
was  sufficient  that  one  should  fervently  believe  and  pray  in 
order  that  Nature  might  be  confounded  and  that  the 
Incredible  might  come  to  pass.  Apart  from  that,  there  was 
merely  a  question  of  good  luck,  since  Heaven  seemed  to  make 
a  selection  of  those  sufferers  who  should  be  cured. 

'  Oh !  how  beautiful  it  is,  father,'  murmured  Marie,  who, 
revived  by  the  passionate  interest  which  she  took  in  the 
momentous  subject,  had  so  far  contented  herseK  with  listen- 
ing, dumb  with  amazement  as  it  were.  '  Do  you  remember,' 
she  continued,  'what  you  yourself  told  me  of  that  poor 
woman,  Joaohine  Dehaut,  who  came  from  Belgium  and  made 
her  way  right  across  France  with  her  twisted  leg  eaten  away 
by  an  ulcer,  the  awful  smell  of  which  drove  everybody  away 
from  her  ?  First  of  all  the  ulcer  was  healed  ;  you  could  press 
her  knee  and  she  felt  nothing,  only  a  sUght  redness  remained 
to  mark  where  it  had  been.  And  then  came  the  turn  of  the 
dislocation.  She  shrieked  while  she  was  in  the  water,  it 
seemed  to  her  as  if  somebody  were  breaking  her  bones, 
pulling  her  leg  away  from  her  ;  and,  at  the  same  time,  she 
and  the  woman  who  was  bathing  her,  saw  her  deformed 
foot  rise  and  extend  into  its  natural  shape  with  the  regular 
movement  of  a  clock  hand.  Her  leg  also  straightened  itself, 
the  muscles  extended,  the  knee  replaced  itself  in  its  proper 
position,  all  amidst  such  acute  pain  that  Joachine  ended  by 
fainting.  But  as  soon  as  she  recovered  consciousness,  she 
darted  off,  erect  and  agUe,  to  carry  her  crutches  to  the 

M.  de  Guersaint  in  his  turn  was  laughing  with  wonder- 
ment, waving  his  hand  to  confirm  this  story,  which  had  been 
told  him  by  a  Father  of  the  Assumption.  He  could  have 
xelated  a  score  of  similar  instances,  said  he,  each  more  touch- 
ing, more  extraordinary  than  the  other.  He  even  invoked 
Pierre's  testimony,  and  the  young  priest,  who  was  vmable  to 
believe,  contented  himself  with  nodding  his  head.  At  first, 
unwilling  as  he  was  to  afflict  Marie,  he  had  striven  to  divert 
his  thoughts  by  gazing  through  the  carriage  window  at  the 
fields,  trees,  and  houses  which  defiled  before  his  eyes.  They 
had  just  passed  Augoullme,  and  meado-trs  stretched  out,  and 


lines  of  poplar  trees  fled  away  amidst  the  oontinuotiB  fanning 
of  the  air,  which  the  velocity  of  the  train  occasioned; 

They  were  late,  no  doubt,  for  they  were  hastening  onward 
at  full  speed,  thundering  along  under  the  stormy  sky,  through 
the  fiery  atmosphere,  devouring  kilometre  after  kilometre  in 
swift  succession.  However,  despite  himself,  Pierre  heard 
snatches  of  the  various  narratives,  and  grew  interested  in 
these  extravagant  stories,  which  the  rough  jolting  of  the 
wheels  accompanied  like  a  lullaby,  as  though  the  engine  had 
been  turned  loose  and  were  wildly  bearing  them  away  to  the 
divine  land  of  dreams.  They  were  rolling,  still  roUing  along, 
and  Pierre  at  last  ceased  to  gaze  at  the  landscape,  and  sur- 
rendered himself  to  the  heavy,  sleep-inviting  atmosphere  of 
the  carriage,  where  ecstasy  was  growing  and  spreading,  carry- 
ing everyone  far  from  that  world  of  reality  across  which  they 
were  so  rapidly  rushing.  The  sight  of  Marie's  face  with  its 
brightened  look  filled  the  young  priest  with  sincere  joy,  and 
he  let  her  retain  his  hand,  which  she  had  taken  in  order  to 
acquaint  him,  by  the  pressure  of  her  fingers,  with  all  the  con- 
fidence which  was  reviving  in  her  soul.  And  why  should  he 
have  saddened  her  by  his  doubts,  since  he  was  so  desirous  of 
her  cure  ?  So  he  continued  clasping  her  small,  moist  hand, 
feeling  infinite  affection  for  her,  a  dolorous  brotherly  love 
which  distracted  him,  and  made  him  anxious  to  believe  in  the 
pity  of  the  spheres,  in  a  superior  kindness  which  tempered 
suffering  to  those  who  were  plunged  in  despair. 

'  Oh ! '  she  repeated,  '  how  beautiful  it  is  Pierre !  How 
beautiful  it  is  !  And  what  glory  it  will  be  if  the -Blessed 
Virgin  deigns  to  disturb  herself  for  me  !  Do  you  really  think 
me  worthy  of  such  a  favour  ? ' 

'  Assuredly  I  do,'  he  exclaimed ;  '  you  are  the  best  and  the 
purest,  with  a  spotless  soul  as  your  father  said  ;  there  are  not 
enough  good  angels  in  Paradise  to  form  your  escort.' 

But  the  narratives  were  not  yet  finished.  Sister  Hyacinthe 
and  Madame  de  JonquiSre  were  now  enumerating  all  the 
miracles  with  which  they  were  acquainted,  the  long,  long 
series  of  miracles  which  for  more  than  thirty  years  had  been 
flowering  at  Lourdes,  like  the  uninterrupted  budding  of  the 
roses  on  the  Mystical  Eose-tree.  They  could  be  counted  by 
thousands,  they  put  forth  fresh  shoots  every  year  with  pro- 
digious verdancy  of  sap,  becoming  brighter  and  brighter  each 
successive  season.  And  the  sufferers  who  listened  to  these 
marvellous  stories  with  increasing  feverishness  were  like  little 


children  wto,  after  hearing  one  fine  fairy  tale,  ask  for  another 
and  another,  and  yet  another.  Oh!  that  they  might  have 
more  and  more  of  those  stories  in  which  evil  reality  was  flouted, 
in  which  unjust  nature  was  cuffed  and  slapped,  in  which  the 
Divinity  intervened  as  the  supreme  healer,  He  who  laughs  at 
science  and  distributes  happiness  according  to  His  own  good 

First  of  all  there  were  the  deaf  and  the  dumb  who  sudr 
denly  heard  and  spoke  ;  such  as  AureUe  Bruneau,  who  was 
incurably  deaf,  with  the  drums  of  both  ears  broken,  and  yet 
was  suddenly  enraptured  by  the  celestial  music  of  a  harmo- 
nium ;  such  also  as  Lotiise  Pourchet,  who  on  her  side  had 
been  dumb  for  five-and-twenty  years,  and  yet,  whilst  praying 
in  the  Grotto,  suddenly  exclaimed  '  Hail  Mary,  full  of  grace  ! ' 
And  there  were  others  and  yet  others  who  were  completely 
cured  by  merely  letting  a  few  drops  of  water  fall  into  theil 
ears  or  upon  their  tongues.  Then  came  the  procession  of  the 
blind  :  Father  Hermann,  who  felt  the  Blessed  Virgin's  gentle 
hand  removing  the  veil  which  covered  his  eyes ;  Mademoiselle 
de  Pontbriant,  who  was  threatened  with  a  total  loss  of  sight, 
but  after  a  simple -prayer  was  enabled  to  see  better  than  she  had 
ever  seen  before ;  then  a  child  of  twelve  years  old  whose  cor- 
neas resembled  marbles^  but  who,  in  three  seconds,  became 
possessed  of  clear,  deep  eyes,  bright  with  an  angelic  smile. 
However  there  was  especially  an  abundance  of  paralytics,  of 
lame  people  suddenly  enabled  to  walk  upright,  of  sufferers  for 
long  years  powerless  to  stir  from  their  beds  of  misery  and  to 
whom  the  voice  said :  '  Arise  and  walk ! '  Delannoy,  afflicted 
with  ataxia,  vainly  cauterised  and  burnt,  fifteen  times  an 
inmate  of  the  Paris  hospitals,  whence  he  had  emerged  with 
the  concurring  diagnoses  of  twelve  doctors,  feels  a  strange 
force  raising  him  up  as  the  Blessed  Sacrament  goes  by, 
and  he  begins  to  follow  it,  his  legs  strong  and  healthy  once 
more.*  Marie  Louise  Delpon,  a  girl  of  fourteen,  suffering 
from  paralysis  which  had  stiffened  her  legs,  drawn  back  her 
hands,  and  twisted  her  mouth  on  one  side,  sees  her  limbs 

*  This  was  one  of  the  most  notorious  of  all  the  recorded  cases,  and  I 
gave  a  few  particulars  concerning  it  in  the  earlier  editions  of  this  trans- 
lation. Subsequently,  however,  the  affair  had  a  very  strange  sequel,  an 
intelligible  account  of  which  cannot  well  be  supplied  within  the  compass 
of  a  foot-note.  I  have  therefore  Inserted  the  needful  details  at  the  end 
of  this  volume.    See  pp.  491-2. — Trans. 

miRACLES  ft 

loosen  and  the  distortion  of  her  mouth  disappear  as  though 
an  invisible  hand  ■were  severing  the  fearful  bonds  which  had 
deformed  her.  Marie  Vachier,  riveted  to  her  armchair  during 
seventeen  years  by  paraplegia,  not  only  runs  and  flies  on 
emerging  from  the  piscina,  but  finds  no  trace  even  of  the 
sores  ■with  ■which  her  long  enforced  immobility  had  covered 
her  body.  And  Georges  Hanquet,  attacked  by  softening  of 
the  spinal  marrow,  passes  without  transition  from  agony  to 
perfect  health ;  while  L^onie  Charton,  likewise  afSicted  with 
softening  of  the  meduUa,  and  whose  vertebrae  bulge  out  to  a 
considerable  extent,  feels  her  hump  melting  away  as  though 
by  enchantment,  and  her  legs  rise  and  straighten,  renovated 
and  •vigorous. 

Then  came  all  sorts  of  ailments.  First  those  brought 
about  by  scrofula — a  great  many  more  legs  long  incapable  of 
service  and  made  anew.  There  was  Margaret  Gehier,  who 
had  suffered  from  coxalgia  for  seven-and-twenty  years,  whose 
hip  was  devoured  by  the  disease,  whose  left  knee  was  anohy- 
losed,  and  who  yet  was  suddenly  able  to  fall  upon  her  knees 
to  thank  the  Blessed  Virgin  for  healing  her.  There  was  also 
PhUomtee  Simoimeau,  the  young  Vend^enne,  whose  left  leg 
was  perforated  by  three  horrible  sores  in  the  depths  of  •which 
her  carious  bones  were  visible,  and  whose  bones,  whose  flesh, 
and  whose  skin  were  all  formed  afresh. 

Next  came  the  dropsical  ones :  Madame  Ancelin,  the 
swelling  of  whose  feet,  hands,  and  entire  body  subsided 
without  anyone  being  able  to  tell  whither  all  the  water  had 
gone;  Mademoiselle  Montagnon,  from  whom,  on  various 
occasions,  nearly  twenty  quarts  of  water  had  been  dra'wn, 
and  who,  on  again  sweUing,  was  entirely  rid  of  the  fluid  by 
the  application  of  a  bandage  which  had  been  dipped  in 
the  miraculous  source.  And,  in  her  case  also,  none  of  the 
water  could  be  found,  either  in  her  bed  or  on  the  floor.  In 
the  same  way  not  a  complaint  of  the  stomach  resisted,  all 
disappeared  with  the  first  glass  of  water.  There  was  Marie 
Souchet,  who  vomited  black  blood,  who  had  wasted  to  a 
skeleton,  and  who  devoured  her  food  and  recovered  her  flesh 
in  two  days'  time !  There  was  Marie  Jarland,  who  hadburiit 
herself  internally  through  drinking  a  glassful  of  a  metallic 
solution  used  for  cleansing  and  brightening  kitchen  utensils,' 
and  who  felt  the  tumour  which  had  resulted  from  her  injuries 
melt  rapidly  away.  Moreover,  every  tumour  disappeared  in 
this  fashion,  in  the  piscina,  without  leaving  the  slightest  trace 


behind.  But  that  which  caused  yet  greater  wondettnent  wad 
the  manner  in  which  ulcers,  cancers,  all  sorts  of  horrible,, 
visible  sores  were  cicatrised  by  a  breath  from  on  high.  A 
Jew,  an  actor,  -whose  hand  was  devoured  by  an  ulcer,  merely 
had  to  dip  it  in  the  water  and  he  was  cured.  A  very  wealthy 
young  foreigner  who  had  a  wen  as  large  as  a  hen's  egg  on 
his  right  wrist,  hehdi  it  dissolve.  Eose  Duval,  who,  as  a 
result  of  a  white  tumour,  had  a  hole  in  her  left  elbow,  large 
enough  to  accommodate  a  walnut,  was  able  to  watch  and 
follow  the  prompt  action  of  the  new  flesh  in  filling  up  this 
cavity  !  The  widow  Fromond,  with  a  lip  half  destroyed  by  a 
cancerous  formation,  merely  had  to  apply  the  miraculous 
water  to  it  as  a  lotion,  and  not  even  a  red  mark  remained. 
Marie  Moreau,  who  experienced  fearful  sufferings  from  a 
cancer  in  the  breast,  fell  asleep,  after  laying  on  it  a  linen  cloth 
soaked  in  some  water  of  Lourdes,  and  when  she  awoke,  two 
hours  later,  the  pain  had  disappeared,  and  her  flesh  was  once 
more  smooth  and  pink  and  fresh. 

At  last  Sister  Hyacinthe  began  to  speak  of  the  immediate 
And  complete  cures  of  phthisis,  and  this  was  the  triumph, 
the  healing  of  that  terrible  disease  which  ravages  humanity, 
which  unbelievers  defied  the  Blessed  Virgin  to  cure,  but 
which  she  did  cure,  it  was  said,  by  merely  raising  her  little 
finger.*  A  hundred  instances,  more  extraordinary  one  than 
the  other,  pressed  forward  for  citation. 

Marguerite  Coupel,  who  has  suffered  from  phthisis  for 
three  years,  and  the  upper  part  of  whose  lungs  is  destroyed 
by  tuberculosis,  rises  up  and  goes  off,  radiant  with  health. 
Madame  de  la  Eiviere,  who  spits  blood,  who  is  ever  covered 
with  a  cold  perspiration,  whose  naUs  have  already  acquired  a 
violet  tinge,  who  is  indeed  on  the  point  of  drawing  her  last 
breath,  requires  but  a  spoonful  of  the  water  to  be  administered 
to  her  between  her  teeth,  and  lo  1  the  rattle  ceases,  she  sits 
up,  makes  the  responses  to  the  litanies,  and  asks  for  some 
broth.  Julie  Jadot  requires  four  spoonfuls ;  but  then  she 
could  nOjlonger  hold  up  her  head,  she  was  of  such  a  delicate 
constitution  tiiat  disease  had  reduced  her  to  nothing ;  and  yet, 
in  a  few  days,  she  becomes  quite  fat.  Anna  Catry,  who  is  in 
the  most  advanced  stage  of  the  malady,  with  her  left  lung  half 
destroyed  by  a  cavity,  is  plunged  five  times  into  the  cold  water, 

*  It  is  commonly  stated  that  there  are  more  oases  of  consamption  in 
England  than  in  any  other  country  in  the  world.  This  passage  should 
therefore  be  of  partjctjlivr  ioterpgt  to  English  jreadera, — ?V«n«i 


contrary  to  all  the  dictates  of  prudence,  and  she  is  cured,  her 
lung  is  healthy  once  more.  Another  consumptive  girl,  con- 
demned by  fifteen  doctors,  has  asked  nothing,  has  simply  fallen 
on  her  knees  in  the  Grotto,  by  chance  as  it  were,  and  is  after- 
wards quite  surprised  at  having  been  6ured  au passage,  through 
the  hicky  circumstance  of  having  been  there,  no  doubt,  at  the 
hour  when  the  Blessed  Virgin,  moved  to  pity,  allows  miracles 
to  fall  from  her  invisible  hands. 

Miracles  and  yet  more  miracles !  They  rained  down  like 
the  flowers  of  dreams  from  a  clear  and  balmy  sky.  Some  of 
them  were  touching,  some  of  them  were  childish.  An  old 
woman  who,  having  her  hand  anchylosed,  had  been  incapable 
of  moving  it  for  thirty  years,  washes  it  in  the  water  and  is  at 
once  able  to  make  the  sign  of  the  Cross.  Sister  Sophie,  who 
barked  like  a  dog,  plunges  into  the  piscina  and  emerges  from 
it  with  a  clear,  pure  voice,  chanting  a  canticle.  Mustapha,  a 
Turk,  invokes  the  White  Lady  and  recovers  the  use  of  his 
right  eye  by  applying  a  compress  to  it.  An  officer  of  Turcos 
was  protected  at  Sedan ;  a  cuirassier  of  Keichsoffen  would  have 
died,  pierced  in  the  heart  by  a  bullet,  if  this  bullet  after  passing 
through  his  pocket  book  had  not  stayed  its  flight  on  reaching 
a  little  picture  of  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes !  And,  as  with  the 
men  and  the  women,  so  did  the  children,  the  poor,  suffering 
little  ones,  find  mercy ;  a  paralytic  boy  of  five  rose  and  walked 
after  being  held  for  five  minutes  under  the  icy  jet  of  the  spring ; 
another  one,  fifteen  years  of  age,  who,  lying  in  bed,  could  oidy 
raise  an  inarticulate  cry,  sprang  out  of  the  piscina,  shouting 
that  he  was  cured ;  another  one,  but  two  years  old,  a  poor  tiny 
fellow  who  had  never  been  able  to  walk,  remained  for  a 
quarter  of  an  hour  in  the  cold  water  and  then,  invigorated  and 
smiling,  took  his  first  steps  like  a  little  man  !  And  for  all  of 
them,  the  httle  ones  as  well  as  the  adults,  the  pain  was  acute 
whilst  the  miracle  was  being  aecompUshed ;  for  the  work  of 
repair  could  not  be  effected  without  causing  an  extraordinary 
shock  to  the  whole  human  organism  ;  the  bones  grew  again, 
new  flesh  was  formed,  and  the  disease,  driven  away,  made  its 
escape  in  a  final  convulsion.  But  how  great  was  the  feeling 
of  comfort  which  followed !  The  doctors  could  not  believe 
their  eyes,  their  astonishment  burst  forth  at  each  fresh  cure, 
when  they  saw  the  patients  whom  they  had  despaired  of  run 
and  jump  and  eat  with  ravenous  appetites.  All  these  chosen 
ones,  these  women  cured  of  their  ailments,  walked  a  couple  of 
rojles,  sat  down  to  roast  fowl,  and  slept  the  soundest  of  sleeps 


for  a  dozen  hours.  Moreover,  there  was  WO  convalescence,  it 
was  a  sudden  leap  from  the  death  throes  to  complete  health. 
Limbs  were  renovated,  sores  were  filled  up,  organs  were  re- 
formed in  their  entirety,  plumpness  returned  to  the  emaciated, 
all  with  the  velocity  of  a  hghtning  flash  1  Science  was  com- 
pletely baffled.  Not  even  the  most  simple  precautions  were 
taken,  women  were  bathed  at  all  times  and  seasons,  perspiring 
consumptives  were  plunged  into  the  icy  water,  sores  were  left 
to  their  putrefaction  without  any  thought  of  employing  anti- 
Bej)tics.  And  then  what  canticles  of  joy,  what  shouts  of 
gratitude  and  love  arose  at  each  fresh  miracle  I  The  favoured 
one  falls  upon  her  knees,  all  who  are  present  weep,  conversions 
are  effected,  Protestants  and  Jews  alike  embrace  Cathohcism 
— other  miracles  these,  miracles  of  faith,  at  which  Heaven 
triumphs.  And  when  the  favoured  one,  chosen  for  the 
miracle,  returns  to  her  vUlage,  aU  the  inhabitants  crowd  to 
meet  her,  whilst  the  bells  peal  merrily ;  and  when  she  is  seen 
springing  lightly  from  the  vehicle  which  has  brought  her 
home,  shouts  and  sobs  of  joy  burst  forth  and  all  intonate  the 
Magnificat :  Glory  to  the  Blessed  Virgin!  Gratitude  and  love 
for  ever ! 

Indeed,  that  which  was  more  particularly  evolved  from  the 
realisation  of  all  these  hopes,  from  the  celebration  of  all  these 
ardent  thanksgivings,  was  gratitude — gratitude  to  the  Mother 
most  pure  and  most  admirable.  She  was  the  great  passion  of 
every  soul,  she,  the  Virgin  most  powerful,  the  Virgin  most 
merciful,  the  Mirror  of  Justice,  the  Seat  of  Wisdom.*  All 
hands  were  stretched  towards  her,  Mystical  Eose  in  the  dim 
light  of  the  chapels.  Tower  of  Ivory  on  the  horizon  of  dream- 
land. Gate  of  Heaven  leading  into  the  Infinite.  Each  day  at 
early  dawn  she  shone  forth,  bright  Morning  Star,  gay  with 
juvenescent  hope.  And  was  she  not  also  the  Health  of  the 
weak,  the  Befuge  of  sinners,  the  Comforter  of  the  afflicted  ? 
France  had  ever  been  her  well-loved  country,  she  was  adored 
there  with  an  ardent  worship,  the  worship  of  her  womanhood 
and  her  motherhood,  the  soaring  of  a  divine  affection ;  and  it 
was  particularly  in  France  that  it  pleased  her  to  show  herself 
to  little  shepherdesses.  She  was  so  good  to  the  Uttle  and  the 
humble  ;  she  continually  occupied  herself  with  them ;  and  if 
she  was  appealed  to  so  willingly  it  was  because  she  was  known 

*  For  the  infonnation  of  Protestant  readers  it  may  be  mentioned 
that  all  the  titles  enumerated  in  this  passage  are  taken  bom  the  Litany 
of  the  Blessed  Virgin. — Tram. ' 


to  be  the  intermediary  of  love  betwixt  Earth  and  Heaven. 
Every  evening  she  wept  tears  of  gold  at  the  feet  of  her  divine 
Son  to  obtain  favours  from  Him,  and  these  favours  were  the 
miracles  which  He  permitted  her  to  work, — these  beautiful, 
flower-like  miracles,  as  sweet-scented  as  the  roses  of  Paradise, 
so  prodigiously  splendid  and  fragrant. 

But  the  train  was  still  rolling,  rolling  onward.  They  had 
just  passed  Coutras,  it  was  six  o'clock,  and  Sister  Hyacinthe, 
rising  to  her  feet,  clapped  her  hands  together  and  once  again 
repeated  :  '  The  Angelus,  my  children  1 ' 

Never  had '  Aves '  impregnated  with  greater  faith,  inflamed 
with  a  more  fervent  desire  to  be  heard  by  Heaven,  winged 
their  flight  on  high.  And  Pierre  suddenly  understood  every- 
thing, clearly  realised  the  meaning  of  all  these  pilgrimages,  of 
aU  these  trains  rolling  along  through  every  country  of  the 
civilised  world,  of  all  these  eager  crowds,  hastening  towards 
Lourdes,  which  blazed  over  yonder  like  the  abode  of  salvation 
for  body  and  for  mind.  Ah !  the  poor  wretches  whom,  ever 
since  morning,  he  had  heard  groaning  with  pain,  the  poor 
wretches  who  exposed  their  sorry  carcasses  to  the  fatigues  of 
such  a  journey  I  They  were  all  condemned,  abandoned  by 
science,  weary  of  consulting  doctors,  of  having  tried  the 
torturing  effects  of  futile  remedies.  And  how  well  one  could 
understand  that,  burning  with  a  desire  to  preserve  their  lives, 
unable  to  resign  themselves  to  the  injustice  and  indifference 
of  Nature,  they  should  dream  of  a  superhuman  power,  of 
an  almighty  Divinity  who,  in  their  favour,  would  perchance 
annul  the  estabUshed  laws,  alter  the  course  of  the  planets, 
and  reconsider  His  creation  I  For  if  the  world  failed  them, 
did  not  the  Divinity  remain  to  them  ?  In  their  cases  reality 
was  too  abominable,  and  an  immense  need  of  Ulusion  and 
falsehood  sprang  up  within  them.  Oh  !  to  believe  that  there  is 
a  supreme  Justiciar  somewhere,  one  who  rights  the  apparent 
wrongs  of  things  and  beings ;  to  believe  that  there  is  a 
Redeemer,  a  consoler  who  is  the  real  master,  who  can  carry  the 
torrents  back  to  their  source,  who  can  restore  youth  to  the 
aged,  and  life  to  the  dead !  And  when  you  are  covered  with 
sores,  when  your  Umbs  are  twisted,  when  your  stomach  is 
swollen  by  tumours,  when  your  lungs  are  destroyed  by  disease, 
to  be  able  to  say  that  all  this  is  of  no  consequence,  that  every- 
thing may  disappear  and  be  renewed  at  a  sign  from  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  that  it  is  sufficient  that  you  should  pray  to 
her,  touch  her  heart,  and  obtain  the  favour  of  being  chosen  by 


her.  And  then  what  a  heavenly  fount  of  hope  ap^eated  Mth 
the  prodigious  flow  of  those  beautiful  stories  of  cure,  those 
adorable  fairy  tales  which  lulled  and  intoxicated  the  feverish 
imaginations  of  the  sick  and  the  infirm.  Since  little  Sophie 
Couteau,  with  her  white,  sound  foot,  had  climbed  into  that 
carriage,  opening  to  the  gaze  of  those  within  it  the  limitless 
heavens  of  the  Divine  and  the  Supernatural,  how  well  one 
could  understand  the  breath  of  resurrection  that  was  passing 
over  the  world,  slowly  raising  those  who  despaired  the  most 
from  their  beds  of  misery,  and  making  their  eyes  shine  since 
life  was  yet  a  possibility  for  them,  and  they  were,  perhaps,  about 
to  begin  it  afresh. 

Yes,  'twas  indeed  that.  If  that  woeful  train,  was  rolling, 
rolling  on,  if  that  carriage  was  fuU,  if  the  other  carriages  were 
full  also,  if  France  and  the  world,  from  the  uttermost  limits 
of  the  earth,  were  crossed  by  similar  trains,  if  crowds  of  three 
hundred  thousand  beHevers,  bringing  thousands  of  sick  along 
with  them,  were  ever  setting  out,  from  one  end  of  the  year  to 
the  other,  it  was  because  the  Grotto  yonder  was  shining  forth 
in  its  glory  like  a  beacon  of  hope  and  illusion,  like  a  sign  of 
the  revolt  and  triumph  of  the  Impossible  over  inexorable 
materiality.  Never  had  a  more  impassionating  romance  been 
devised  to  exalt  the  souls  of  men  above  the  stem  laws  of  life. 
To  dream  that  dream,  this  was  the  great,  the  ineffable  happi- 
ness. If  the  Fathers  of  the  Assumption  had  seen  the  success 
of  their  pilgrimages  increase  and  spread  from  year  to  year,  it 
was  because  they  sold  to  all  the  flocking  peoples  the  bread  of 
consolation  and  illusion,  the  delicious  bread  of  hope,  for  which 
suffering  humanity  ever  hungers  with  a  hunger  that  nothing 
will  ever  appease.  And  it  was  not  merely  the  physical  sores 
which  cried  aloud  for  cure,  the  whole  of  man's  moral  and  intel- 
lectual being  Ukewise  shrieked  forth  its  wretchedness,  with  an 
insatiable  yearning  for  happiness.  To  be  happy,  to  place  the 
certainty  of  life  in  faith,  to  lean  till  death  should  come  upon 
that  one  strong  staff  of  travel — such  was  the  desire  exhaled 
by  every  breast,  the  desire  which  made  every  moral  grief 
bend  the  knee,  imploring  a  continuance  of  grace,  the  conver- 
sion of  dear  ones,  the  spiritual  salvation  of  self  and  those  one 
loved.  The  mighty  cry  spread  from  pole  to  pole,  ascended 
and  filled  all  the  regions  of  space :  To  be  happy,  happy  for 
evermore,  both  in  life  and  in  death  ! 

And  Pierre  saw  the  suffering  beings  around  him  lose  all 
perception  of  the  jolting  and  recover  their  strength  as  league 

Miracles  fj 

by  league  they  drew  nearer  to  the  miracle.  Even  Madame 
Maze  grew  talkative,  certain  as  she  felt  that  the  Blessed 
Virgin  would  restore  her  husband  to  her.  With  a  smile  on 
her  face  Madame  Vincent  gently  rocked  her  little  Eose  in  her 
arms,  thinking  that  she  was  not  nearly  so  ill  as  those  all  but 
lifeless  children  who,  after  being  plunged  in  the  icy  water, 
sprang  out  and  played.  M.  Sabathier  jested  with  M.  de 
Guersaint,  and  explained  to  him  that,  next  October,  when  he 
had  recovered  the  use  of  his  legs,  he  should  go  on  a  trip  to 
Eome — a  journey  which  he  had  been  postponing  for  fifteen 
years  and  more.  Madame  Vetu,  quite  calmed,  feeling  nothing 
but  a  shght  twinge  in  the  stomach,  imagined  that  she  was 
hungry,  and  asked  Madame  de  Jonqui^re  to  let  her  dip  some 
strips  of  bread  in  a  glass  of  milk ;  whilst  Elise  Eouquet,  for- 
getting her  sores,  ate  some  grapes,  with  face  uncovered.  And 
in  La  Grivotte  who  was  now  sitting  up  and  Brother  Isidore 
who  had  ceased  moaning,  all  those  fine  stories  had  left  a 
pleasant  fever,  to  such  a  point  that,  impatient  to  be  cured,  they 
grew  anxious  to  know  the  time.  For  a  minute  also  the  man, 
the  strange  man,  resuscitated.  Whilst  Sister  Hyacinthe  was 
again  wiping  the  cold  sweat  from  his  brow,  he  raised  his 
eyeUds,  and  a  smile  momentarily  brightened  his  pallid  coun- 
tenance.   Yet  once  again  he,  also,  had  hoped. 

Marie  was  stiU  holding  Pierre's  fingers  in  her  own  small, 
warm  hand.  It  was  seven  o'clock,  they  were  not  due  at 
Bordeaux  till  half-past  seven ;  and  the  belated  train  was 
quickening  its  pace  yet  more  and  more,  rushing  along  with 
wild  speed  in  order  to  make  up  for  the  minutes  it  had  lost. 
The  storm  had  ended  by  coming  down,  and  now  a  gentle 
light  of  infinite  purity  fell  from  the  vast  clear  heavens. 

'  Oh  !  how  beautiful  it  is,  Pierre — how  beautiful  it  is  I ' 
Marie  again  repeated,  pressing  his  hand  with  tender  affection. 
And  leaning  towards  him,  she  added  in  an  undertone :  '  I 
beheld  the  Blessed  Virgin  a  httle  while  ago,  Pierre,  and  it 
was  your  cure  that  I  implored  and  shall  obtain.' 

The  priest,  who  understood  her  meaning,  was  thrown  into 
confusion  by  the  divine  light  which  gleamed  in  her  eyes  aa 
she  fixed  them  on  his  own.  She  had  forgotten  her  own 
sufferings ;  that  which  she  had  asked  for  was  his  conversion  ; 
and  that  prayer  of  faith  emanating,  pure  and  candid,  from 
that  dear  suffering  creature,  upset  his  soul.  Yet  why  should 
he  not  believe  some  day  ?  He  himself  had  been  distracted  by 
•all  those  extraordiuaiy  narratives.    The  stifling  heat  of  the 


carriage  had  made  him  dizzy,  the  sight  of  all  the  woe  heaped 
up  there  caused  his  heart  to  bleed  with  pity.  And  contagion 
was  doing  its  work  ;  he  no  longer  knew  where  the  real  and 
the  possible  ceased,  he  lacked  the  power  to  disentangle  so  many 
stupefying  facts,  to  explain  such  as  admitted  of  explanation 
and  reject  the  others.  At  one  moment,  indeed,  as  a  hymn 
once  more  resounded  and  carried  him  off  with  its  stubborn 
importunate  rhythm,  he  ceased  to  be  maSSer  of  liimself,  and 
imagined  that  he  was  at  last  beginning  to  believe  amidst  the 
hallucinatory  vertigo  which  reigned  in  that  travelling  hospital, 
rolling,  ever  rolling  onward  at  full  speed. 


The  train  left  Bordeaux  after  a  stoppage  of  a  few  minutes, 
during  which  those  who  had  not  dined  hastened  to  purchase 
some  provisions.  Moreover,  the  ailing  ones  were  constantly 
drinking  milk,  and  asking  for  biscuits  like  Uttle  children. 
And,  as  soon  as  they  were  off  again.  Sister  Hyaeiathe  clapped 
her  hands,  and  exclaimed :  '  Come,  let  us  make  haste ;  the 
evening  prayer.' 

Thereupon,  during  a  quarter  of  an  hour  came  a  confused 
murmuring,  made  up  of '  Paters '  and '  Aves,'  self -examinations, 
acts  of  contrition,  and  vows  of  trustful  reUance  in  God,  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  and  the  Saints,  with  thanksgivings  for  protec- 
tion and  preservation  that  day,  and,  at  last,  a  prayer  for  the 
living  and  for  the  faithful  departed. 

'In  the  name  of  the  Father,  the  Son,  and  the  Holy 
Ghost.    Amen.' 

It  was  ten  minutes  past  eight  o'clock,  the  shades  of  night 
were  abeady  bedimming  the  landscape — a  vast  plain  which 
the  evening  mist  seemed  to  prolong  into  the  infinite,  and 
where,  far  away,  bright  dots  of  Ught  shone  out  from  the 
windows  of  lonely,  scattered  houses.  In  the  carriage,  the 
lights  of  the  lamps  were  flickering,  casting  a  subdued  yellow 
glow  on  the  luggage  and  the  pilgrims,  who  were  sorely 
shaken  by  the  spreading  tendency  of  the  train's  motion. 

'  You  Imow,  my  children,'  resumed  Sister  Hyacinthe,  who 
had  remained  standing, '  I  shall  order  silence  when  we  get  to 
Jjamothe,  in  about  ftu  hour's  time.    So  you  have  aa  hour  to 


amuse  yourselves,  but  you  must  be  reasonable  and  not  excite 
yourselves  too  much.  And  when  we  have  passed  Lamothe, 
you  hear  me,  there  must  not  be  another  word,  another  sound, 
you  must  all  go  to  sleep.' 

This  made  them  laugh. 

'  Oh  !  but  it  is  the  rule,  you  know,'  added  the  Sister,  '  and 
surely  you  have  too  much  sense  not  to  obey  me.' 

Since  the  morning  they  had  punctually  fulfilled  the  pro- 
gramme of  rehgious  exercises  specified  for  each  successive 
hour.  -And  now  that  aU  the  prayers  had  been  said,  the  beads 
told,  the  hymns  chanted,  the  day's  duties  were  over,  and  a 
brief  interval  of  recreation  was  allowed  before  sleeping.  They 
were  however  at  a  loss  as  to  what  they  should  do. 

'  Sister,'  suddenly  said  Marie,  '  if  you  would  allow  Monsieur 
I'Abb^  to  read  to  us — he  reads  extremely  well — and  as  it 
happens  I  have  a  little  book  with  me — a  history  of  Bemadette 
which  is  so  interesting ' 

The  others  did  not  let  her  finish,  but  with  the  suddenly 
awakened  desire  of  children  to  whom  a  beautiful  story  has 
been  promised,  loudly  exclaimed ;  '  Oh !  yes.  Sister.  Oh !  yes, 
Sister ' 

'Of  course  I  will  allow  it,'  replied  Sister  Hyacinthe, 
.'  since  it  is  a  question  of  reading  something  instructive  and 

Pierre  was  obliged  to  consent.  But  to  be  able  to  read  the 
book  he  wished  to  be  under  the  lamp,  and  it  was  necessary 
that  he  should  change  seats  with  M.  de  Guersaint,  whom  the 
promise  of  a  story  had  delighted  as  much  as  it  did  the  ailing 
ones.  And  when  the  young  priest,  after  changing  seats  and 
^declaring  that  he  would  be  able  to  see  well  enough,  at  last 
opened  the  little  book,  a  quiver  of  curiosity  sped  from  one  end 
of  the  carriage  to  the  other,  and  every  head  was  stretched  out, 
lending  ear  with  rapt  attention.  Fortunately,  Pierre  had  a 
dear,  powerful  voice  and  made  himself  distinctly  heard  above 
the  wheels,  which  now  that  the  train  travelled  across  a  vast 
leve.l  plain,  gave  out  but  a  subdued,  rumbling  sound. 
;  Before  beginning,  however,  the  young  priest  had  examined 
the  book.  It  was  one  of  those  little  works  of  propaganda 
issued  from  the  Catholic  printing  presses  and  circulated  in^ 
■profusion  throughout  all  Christendom.  Badly  printed,  on 
wretched  paper,  it  was  adorned  on  its  blue  cover  with  a  little 
woodcut  of  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes,  a  naive  design  alike  stiff 
and  awkward.    The -book  itself  was  short,  and  half  an  hour 

6*0  LOVRD&S 

would  certainly  suffice  for  Pierre  to  read  it  from  cover  to  cover 
without  hurrying. 

Accordingly,  in  his  fine,  clear  voice,  with  its  penetrating, 
musical  tones,  he  began  his  perusal  as  follows  : — 

'  It  happened  at  Lourdes,  a  little  town  near  the  Pyrenees, 
on  a  Thursday,  February  11,  1858.  The  weather  was  cold, 
and  somewhat  cloudy,  and  in  the  humble  home  of  a  poor  but 
honest  miUer  named  Francois  Soubirous  there  was  no  wood 
to  cook  the  dinner.  The  miller's  wife,  Louise,  said  to  her 
younger  daughter,  Marie,  "  Go  and  gather  some  wood  on  the 
bank  of  the  Gave  or  on  the  common-land."  The  Gave  is  a 
torrent  which  passes  through  Lourdes. 

'  Marie  had  an  elder  sister,  named  Bemadette,  who  had 
lately  arrived  from  the  country,  where  some  worthy  villagers 
had  employed  her  as  a  shepherdess.  She  was  a  slender,  deli- 
cate, extremely  innocent  child,  and  knew  nothing  except  her 
rosary.  Louise  Soubirous  hesitated  to  send  her  out  with  her 
sister,  on  account  of  the  cold,  but  at  last,  yielding  to  the  en- 
treaties of  Marie  and  a  young  girl  of  the  neighbourhood  called 
Jeanne  Abadie,  she  consented  to  let  her  go. 

'  Following  the  bank  of  the  torrent  and  gathering  stray 
fragments  of  dead  wood,  the  three  maidens  at  last  found  them- 
selves in  front  of  a  grotto,  hoUowed  out  in  a  huge  mass  of 
rook  which  the  people  of  the  district  caUed  MassabieUe.' 

Pierre  had  reached  this  point  and  was  turning  the  page 
when  he  suddenly  paused  and  let  the  Httle  book  fall  on  hia 
knees.  The  childish  character  of  the  narrative,  its  ready- 
made,  empty  phraseology,  filled  him  with  impatience.  He 
himself  possessed  quite  a  collection  of  documents  concerning 
this  extraordinary  story,  had  passionately  studied  even  its 
most  trifling  details,  and  in  the  depths  of  his  heart  retained  a 
feeling  of  tender  affection  and  infinite  pity  for  Bemadette. 
He  had  just  reflected,  too,  that  on  the  very  next  day  he  would 
be  able  to  begin  that  decisive  inquiry  which  he  had  formerly 
dreamt  of  making  at  Lourdes.  Li  fact,  this  was  one  of  the 
reasons  which  had  induced  him  to  accompany  Marie  on  her 
journey.  And  he  was  now  conscious  of  an  awakening  of  all 
his  curiosity  respecting  the  Visionary,  whom  he  loved  because 
he  felt  that  she  had  been  a  girl  of  candid  soul,  truthful  and 
ill-fated,  though  at  the  same  time  he  would  much  have  liked 
to  analyse  and  explain  her  case.  Assuredly,  she  had  not  lied, 
she  had  indeed  beheld  a  vision  and  heard  voices,  like  Joan  of 
Arc ;  and  like  Joan  of  Arc  also,  she  was  now,  in  the  opinion 


of  the  devout,  accomplishing  the  deliverance  of  Prance — from 
sin  if  not  from  invaders,  Pierre  wondered  what  force  could 
have  produced  her — her  and  her  work.  How  was  it  that  the 
visionary  faculty  had  become  developed  in  that  lowly  girl,  so 
distracting  believing  souls  as  to  bring  about  a  renewal  of  the 
miracles  of  primitive  times,  as  to  found  almost  a  new  religion 
in  the  midst  of  a  Holy  City,  built  at  an  outlay  of  millions,  and 
ever  invaded  by  crowds  of  worshippers  more  numerous  and 
more  exalted  in  mind  than  had  ever  been  known  siace  the 
days  of  the  Crusades  ? 

And  so,  ceasing  to  read  the  book,  Pierre  began  to  tell  his 
companions  all  that  he  knew,  all  that  he  had  divined  and  re- 
constructed of  that  story  which  is  yet  so  obscure  despite  the 
vast  rivers  of  ink  which  it  has  abeady  caused  to  flow.  He 
knew  the  country  and  its  maimers  and  customs,  through  his 
long  conversations  with  his  friend,  Doctor  Chassaigne.  And 
he  was  endowed  with  charming  fluency  of  language,  an  emo- 
tional power  of  exquisite  purity,  many  remarkable  gifts  well 
fitting  him  to  be  a  pulpit  orator,  which  he  never  made  use  of, 
although  he  had  known  them  to  be  within  him  ever  since  his 
seminary  days.  When  the  occupants  of  the  carriage  perceived 
that  he  knew  the  story,  far  better  and  in  far  greater  detail 
than  it  appeared  in  Marie's  Uttle  book,  and  that  he  related  it 
also  in  such  a  gentle  yet  passionate  way,  there  came  an  in- 
crease of  attention,  and  all  those  afBicted  souls  hungering  for 
happiness  went  forth  towards  him. 

First  came  the  story  of  Bernadette's  childhood  at  Bartres, 
where  she  had  grown  up  in  the  abode  of  her  foster-mother, 
Madame  Lagues,  who,  having  lost  an  infant  of  her  own,  had 
rendered  those  poor  folks,  the  Soubirous,  the  service  of  suck- 
ling and  keeping  their  child  for  them.  Bartres,  a  village  of 
four  hundred  souls,  at  a  league  or  so  from  Lourdes,  lay  as  it 
were  in  a  desert  oasis,  sequestered  amidst  greenery,  and  far 
from  any  frequented  highway.  The  road  dips  down,  the  few 
houses  are  scattered  over  grassland,  divided  by  hedges  and 
planted  with  v/alnut  and  chestnut  trees,  whilst  the  clear  rivu- 
lets, which  are  never  silent,  follow  the  sloping  banks  beside 
the  pathways,  and  nothing  rises  on  high  save  the  small  ancient 
romanesque  church,  which  is  perched  on  a  hillock,  covered 
with  graves.  Wooded  slopes  undulate  upon  all  sides.  Bartres 
lies  in  a  hollow  amidst  grass  of  delicious  freshness,  grass  of 
intense  greenness,  which  is  ever  moist  at  the  roots,  thanks 
tp  the  eternal  subterraneous  expanse  of  water  that  descends 


from  the  mouniaina.  And  Bemadette,  who,  since  becbming 
a~  big  girl,  had  paid  for  her  keep  by  tending  lambs,  was  wont 
to  take  them  with  her,  season  after  season,  through  all  the 
greenery  where  she  never  met  a  soul.  It  was  only  now  and 
then,  from  the  summit  of  some  slope,  that  she  saw  the  far- 
away mountains,  the  Pic  du  Midi,  the  Pic  de  Visoos,  those 
masses  which  rose  up,  bright  or  gloomy,  according  to  the 
weather,  and  which  stretched  away  to  other  peaks,  lightly 
and  faintly  coloured,  vaguely  and  confusedly  outlined,  like 
apparitions  seen  in  dreams. 

Then  came  the  home  of  the  Lagues,  where  her  cradle  was 
still  preserved,  a  sohtary,  silent  house,  the  last  of  the  village. 
A  meadow  planted  with  pear  and  apple  trees,  and  only  sepa- 
rated from  the  open  country  by  a  narrow  stream  which  one 
could  jump  across,  stretched  out  in  front  of  the  house.  Inside 
the  latter,  a  low  and  damp  abode,  there  were,  on  either  side  of 
the  wooden  stairway  leading  to  the  loft,  but  two  spacious 
rooms,  flagged  with  stones,  and  each  containing  four  or  five 
beds.  The  girls,  who  slept  together,  fell  asleep  at  even,  gazing 
at  the  fine  pictures  affixed  to  the  walls,  whilst  the  big  clock 
in  its  pinewood  case  gravely  struck  the  hours  in  the  midst  of 
the  deep  silence. 

Ah  I  those  years  of  Bartr^s ;  in  what  sweet  peacefulness 
did  Bemadette  live  them !  Yet  she  grew  up  very  thin,  always 
in  bad  health,  suffering  from  a  nervous  asthma  which  stifled 
her  at  the  least  veering  of  the  wind ;  and  on  attaining  her 
twelfth  year  she  could  neither  read  nor  write,  nor  speak  other- 
wise than  in  dialect,  having  remained  quite  infantile,  behind- 
hand in  mind  as  in  body.  She  was  a  very  good  little  girl, 
very  gentle  and  well-behaved,  and  but  httle  different  to  other 
children,  except  that  instead  of  talking  she  preferred  to  listen. 
Limited  as  was  her  intelligence,  she  often  evinced  much 
natural  common  sense,  and  at  times  was  prompt  in  her  r&- 
parties,  with  a  kind  of  simple  gaiety  which  made  one  smile. 
It  was  only  with  infinite  trouble  that  she  was  taught  her 
rosary,  and  when  she  knew  it  she  seemed  bent  on  carrying  her 
knowledge  no  further,  but  repsated  it  all  day  long,  so  that  when- 
ever you  met  her  with  her  lambs,  she  invariably  tad  her  chap- 
let  between  her  fingers,  diligently  telling  each  successive '  Pater ' 
and '  Ave.'  For  long,  long  hours  she  lived  like  this  on  the 
grassy  slopes  of  the  hills,  hidden  away  and  haunted  as  it  were 
amidst  the  mysteries  of  the  f  ohage,  seeing  nought  of  the  world 
save  the  crests  of  the  distant  mountains,  which,  for  an  instant, 


every  now  and  then,  would  soar  aloft  in  the  radiant  light,  as 
ethereal  as  the  peaks  of  dreamland. 

Days  followed  days,  and  Bernadette  roamed,  dreaming  her 
one  narrow  dream,  repeating  the  sole  prayer  she  knew,  which, 
gave  her,  amidst  her  solitude,  so  fresh  and  naively  infantile,. 
no  other  companion  and  Mend  than  the  Blessed  Virgin.  But 
what  pleasant  evenings  she  spent  at  winter-time  in  the  room 
on  the  left,  where  a  fire  was  kept  burning !  Her  foster-mother 
had  a  brother,  a  priest,  who  occasionally  read  some  marvellous 
stories  to  them — stories  of  saints,  prodigious  adventures  of  a 
kind  to  make  one  tremble  with  mingled  fear  and  joy,  in  which 
Paradise  appeared  upon  earth,  whilst  the  heavens  opened  and 
a  glimpse  was  caught  of  the  splendour  of  the  angels.  The 
books  he  brought  with  him  were  often  full  of  pictures — God 
the  Father  enthroned  amidst  His  glory ;  Jesus,  so  gentle  and 
so  handsome  with  His  beaming  face ;  the  Blessed  Virgin,  who 
recurred  again  and  again,  radiant  with  splendour,  clad  now  in 
white,  now  in  azure,  now  in  gold,  and  ever  so  amiable,  that, 
Bernadette  would  see  her  again  in  her  dreams.  But  the  book 
which  was  read  more  than  all  others  was  the  Bible,  an  old 
Bible  which  had  been  in  the  family  for  more  than  a  hundred 
years,  and  which  time  and  usage  had  turned  yellow.  Each 
winter  evening  Bemadette's  foster-father,  the  only  member  of 
the  household  who  had  learnt  to  read,  would  take  a  pin,  passi 
it  at  random  between  the  leaves  of  the  book,  open  the  latter,, 
and  then  start  reading  from  the  top  of  the  right-hand  page, 
amidst  the  deep  attention  of  both  the  women  and  the  children,, 
who  ended  by  knowing  the  book  by  heart,  and  could  have 
continued  reciting  it  without  making  a  single  mistake. 

However,  Bernadette,  for  her  part,  preferred  the  religious 
works  in  which  the  Blessed  Virgin  constantly  appeared  with 
her  engaging  smile.  True,  one  reading  of  a  different  character 
amused  her,  that  of  the  marvellous  story  of  the  Four  Brothers 
Aymon.  On  the  yellow  paper  cover  of  the  little  book,  which- 
had  doubtless  fallen  from  the  bale  of  some  peddler  who  had  lost, 
his  way  in  that  remote  region,  there  was  a  naive  cut  showing 
the  four  doughty  knights,  Eenaud  and  his  brothers,  all  mounted 
on  Bayard,  their  famous  battle  charger,  that  princely  present 
made  to  them  by  the  fairy  Orlanda.  And  inside  were  narra- 
tives of  bloody  fights,  of  the  building  and  besieging  of  fortresses, 
of  the  terrible  swordthrusts  exchanged  by  Eoland  and  Eenaud,' 
who  was  at  last  about  to  fi:ee  the  Holy  Land,  withoiat  men-: 
tioning  the  tales  of  Maugis  the  Magician  and  his  marvellous 



enchantments,  and  the  Princess  Clarisse,  the  King  of  Aqui- 
taine's  sister,  who  was  more  lovely  than  sunlight.  Her  imagi-- 
nation  fired  by  such  stories  as  these,  Bemadette  often  found  it 
difficult  to  get  to  sleep ;  and  this  was  especially  the  case  on  the 
evenings  when  the  books  were  left  aside  and  some  person 
of  the  company  related  a  tale  of  witchcraft.  The  girl  was 
very  superstitious,  and  after  sundown  could  never  be  prevailed 
upon  to  pass  near  a  tower  in  the  vicinity,  which  was  said  to 
be  haunted  by  the  fiend.  For  that  matter,  all  the  folks  of  the 
region  were  superstitious,  devout,  and  simple-minded,  the 
whole  countryside  being  peopled,  so  to  say,  with  mysteries — 
trees  which  sang,  stones  from  which  blood  flowed,  cross-roads 
where  it  was  necessary  to  say  three  'Paters '  and  three  '  Aves,'  if 
you  did  not  wish  to  meet  the  seven-horned  beast  who  carried 
maidens  off  to  perdition.  And  what  a  wealth  of  terrifying 
stories  there  was !  Hundreds  of  stories,  so  that  there  was  no 
finishing  on  the  evenings  when  somebody  started  them.  First 
came  the  wehrwolf  adventures,  the  tales  of  the  unhappy  men 
whom  the  demon  forced  to  enter  into  the  bodies  of  dogs,  the 
great  white  dogs  of  the  mountains.  If  you  fire  a  gun  at  the 
dog  and  a  single  shot  should  strike  him,  the  man  will  be  de- 
livered ;  but  if  the  shot  should  fall  on  the  dog's  shadow,  the 
man  will  immediately  die.  Then  came  the  endless  procession 
of  sorcerers  and  sorceresses.  In  one  of  these  tales  Bernadette 
evinced  a  passionate  interest ;  it  was  the  story  of  a  clerk  of 
the  tribunal  of  Lourdes  who,  wishing  to  see  the  devil,  was 
conducted  by  a  witch  into  an  untiLLed  field  at  midnight  on 
Good  Friday.  The  devil  arrived  clad  in  magnificent  scarlet 
garments,  and  at  once  proposed  to  the  clerk  that  he  should 
buy  his  soul,  an  offer  which  the  clerk  pretended  to  accept.  It 
so  happened  that  the  devil  was  carrying  under  his  arm  a 
register  in  which  different  persons  of  the  town,  who  had 
already  sold  themselves,  had  signed  their  names.  However 
the  clerk,  who  was  a  cunning  fellow,  pulled  out  of  his  pocket 
a  pretended  bottle  of  ink,  which  in  reality  contained  holy 
water,  and  with  this  he  sprinkled  the  devil,  who  raised  fright- 
ful shrieks,  whilst  the  clerk  took  to  flight,  carrying  the  register 
off  with  him.  Then  began  a  wild,  mad  race,  which  might 
last  throughout  the  night,  over  the  mountains,  through  the 
valleys,  across  the  forests  and  the  torrents.  '  Give  me  back 
my  register  I '  shouted  the  fiend.  '  No,  you  shan't  have  it ! ' 
replied  the  clerk.  And  again  and  again  it  began  afresh : 
' Give  me  back  my  register  1 '    'No,  you  shan't  hay^  it \ ' 


And  at  last,  finding  himself  out  of  breath,  near  the  point  of 
succumbing,  the  clerk,  who  had  his  plan,  threw  himself  into  the 
cemetery,  which  was  consecrated  ground,  and  was  there  able 
to  deride  the  devil  at  his  ease,  waving  the  register  which 
he  had  purloined  so  as  to  save  the  souls  of  all  the  unhappy 
people  who  had  signed  their  names  in  it.  On  the  evening 
when  this-  story  was  told,  Bemadette,  before  surrendering 
herself  to  sleep,  would  mentally  repeat  her  rosary,  delighted 
with  the  thought  that  hell  should  have  been  baffled,  though 
she  trembled  at  the  idea  that  it  would  surely  return  to  prowl 
around  her,  as  soon  as  the  lamp  should  have  been  put  out. 

Throughout  one  winter,  the  long  evenings  were  spent  in 
the  church.  Abb6  Ader,  the  village  priest,  had  authorised 
it,  and  many  families  came,  in  order  to  economise  oil  and 
candles.  Moreover  they  felt  less  cold  when  gathered  together 
in  this  fashion.  The  Bible  was  read,  and  prayers  were  repeated, 
whilst  the  children  ended  by  falling  asleep.  Bernadette  alohe 
struggled  on  to  the  finish,  so  pleased  she  was  at  being  there, 
in  that  narrow  nave  whose  slender  nervures  were  coloured 
blue  and  red.  At  the  farther  end  was  the  altar,  also  painted 
and  gilded,  with  its  twisted  columns  and  its  screens  on  which 
appeared  the  Virgin  and  St.  Anne,  and  the  Beheading  of  St. 
John  the  Baptist — the  whole  of  a  gaudy  and  somewhat 
barbaric  splendour.  And  as  sleepiness  grew  upon  her,  the 
child  must  have  often  seen  a  mystical  vision  as  it  were  of 
those  crudely  coloured  designs  rising  before  her — have  seen 
the  blood  flowing  from  St.  John's  severed  head,  have  seen  the 
aureolas  shining,  the  Virgin  ever  returning  and  gazing  at  her 
with  her  blue  hving  'eyes,  and  looking  as  though  she  were  on 
the  point  of  opening  her  vermilion  Ups  in  order  to  speak  to 
her.  For  some  months  Bernadette  spent  her  evenings  in  this 
wise,  half  asleep  in  front  of  that  sumptuous,  vaguely  defined 
altar,  in  the  incipieney  of  a  divine  dream  which  she  carried 
away  with  her,  and  finished  in  bed,  slumbering  peacefully 
under  the  watchful  care  of  her  guardian  angel. 

And  it  was  also  in  that  old  church,  so  humble  yet  so 
impregnated  with  ardent  faith,  that  Bemadette  began  to  learn 
her  catechism.  She  would  soon  be  fourteen  now,  and  must 
think  of  her  first  communion.  Her  foster-mother,  who  had 
the  reputation  of  being  avaricious,  did  not  send  her  to  school, 
but  employed  her  in  or  about  the  house  from  morning  till 
evening.  M.  Barbet,  the  schoolmaster,  never  saw  her  at  his 
classes,  though  one  day,  when  he  gave  the  catechism  lesson,  in 


the  place  of  Abb6  Ader  who  was  indisposed,  he  remarked 
her  on  account  of  her  piety  and  modesty.  The  village  priest 
was  very  fond  of  Bernadette  and  often  spoke  of  her  to 
the  schoolmaster,  saying  that  he  could  never  look  at  her 
without  thinking  of  the  children  of  La  Salette,  since  they  must 
have  been  good,  candid,  and  pious  as  she  was,  for  the  Blessed 
Virgin  to  have  appeared  to  them.*  N^  On  another  occasion 
whilst  the  two  men  were  walking  one  morning  near  the 
village,  and  saw  Bernadette  disappear  with  her  little  flock 
under  some  spreading  trees  in  the  distance,  the  ^bb6  re- 
peatedly turned  round  to  look  for  her,  and  again  remarked : 
'I  cannot  account  for  it,  but  every  time  I  meet  that  child 
it  seems  to  me  as  if  I  saw  M61anie,  the  young  shepherdess, 
httle  Maximin's  companion.'  He  was  certainly  beset  by  this 
singular  idea,  which  became,  so  to  say,  a  pred&etion.  More- 
over, had  he  not  one  day  after  catechism,  or  one  evening 
when  the  villagers  were  gathered  in  the  church,  related  that 
marvellous  story  which  was  already  twelve  years  old,  that 
story  of  the  Lady  in  the  dazzhng  robes  who  walked  upon  the 
grass  mthout  even  making  it  bend,  the  Blessed  Virgin  who 
showed,.herself  to  MSlanie  and  Masimin  on  the  barJ^s  of  a 
stream  in  the  mountains,  and  confided  to  them  a  great  secret 
and  announced  the  anger  of  her  Son  ?  Ever  since  that  day 
a  source  had  sprung  up  from  the  tears  which  she  had  shed, 
a  source  which  cured  aU  ailments,  whilst  the  secret,  inscribed 
on  parchment  fastened  with  three  seals,  slumbered  at  Bome  ! 
An^  Bernadette,  no  doubt,  with  her  dreamy,  silent  air,  had 
listened  passionately  to  that  wonderful  tale  and  carried  it  off 
with  her  into  the  desert  of  foHage  where  she  spent  her  days, 
so  that  she  might  live  it  over  again  as  she  walked  along 
behind  her  lambs  with  her  rosary  slipping  bead  by  bead 
between  her  slender  fingers. 

Thus  her  childhood  ran  its  course  at  Bartres.    That 

*  It  waa  on  September  19, 1846,  that  the  Virgin  is  said  to  have  ap- 
peared in  the  ravine  of  La  Sezia,  adjacent  to  the  valley  of  La  Salette, 
between  Corps  and  Entraignes,  in  the  department  of  the  Is^re.  The 
visionaries  were  MManie  Mathieu,  a  girl  of  fourteen,  and  Mazimin 
Qiraud,  a  boy  of  twelve.  The  local  clergy  speedily  endorsed  the  story  of 
the  miracle,  and  thousands  of  people  still  go  every  year  inpilgimage  to  a 
church  overlooking  the  valley,  and  bathe  and  drink  at  a  so-caUed  mira- 
culous source.  Two  priests  of  Grenoble,  however,  AbbS  Dfl6on  and 
Abbs  Cartellier,  accused  a  MdUe.  de  Lamerlik«  of  haV^  concocted 
the  miracle,  and  when  she  took  proceedings  against  them  for  libel  she 
lost  her  case. — Tram, 


^hich  delighted  one  in  this  Bernadette,  so  poor-blooded,  so 
sUght  of  build,  was  her  ecstatic  eyes,  beautiM  visionary  eyes, 
from  which  dreams  soared  aloft  like  birds  winging  their 
flight  in  a  pure  Hmpid  sky.  Her  mouth  was  large,  with  lips 
somewhat  thick,  expressive  of  kindliness ;  her  square-shaped 
head  had  a  straight  brow,  and  was  covered  with  thick  black 
hair,  whilst  her  face  would  have  seemed  rather  common  but 
for  its  charming  expression  of  gentle  obstinacy.  Those  who 
did  not  gaze  into  her  eyes,  however,  gave  her  no  thought. 
To  them  she  was  but  an  ordinary  child,  a  poor  thing  of  the 
roads,  a  girl  of  reluctant  growth,  timidly  humble  in  her  ways. 
Assuredly  it  was  in  her  glance  that  Abb6  Ader  had  with 
agitation  detected  the  stifling  ailment  which  filled  her  puny, 
girlish  form  with  suffering — that  ailment  born  of  the  greeny 
sohtude  in  which  she  had  grown  up,  the  gentleness  of  her 
bleating  lambs,  the  Angelic  Salutation  which  she  had  carried 
with  her,  hither  and  thither,  under  the  sky,  repeating  and 
repeating  it  to  the  point  of  hallucination,  the  prodigious 
stories  too  which  she  had  heard  folk- tell  at  her  foster-mother's, 
the  long  evenings  spent  before  the  Uving  altar-screens  in  the 
church,  and  all  the  atmosphere  of  primitive  faith  which  she 
had  breathed  in  that  far-away  rural  region,  hemmed  in  by 

At  last,  on  one  seventh  of  January,  Bernadette  had  just 
reached  her  fourteenth  birthday,  when  her  parents,  finding 
that  she  learnt  nothing  at  Bartres,  resolved  to  bring  her 
back  to  Lourdes  for  good,  in  order  that  she  might  diligently 
study  her  catechism,  and  in  this  wise  seriously  prepare  her- 
self for  her  first  communion.  And  so  it  happened  that  she 
had  already  been  at  Lourdes  some  fifteen  or  twenty  days, 
when  on  February  11,  a  Thursday,  cold  and  somewhat 

But  Pierre  could  carry  his  narrative  no  further,  for  Sister 
Hyacinthe  had  risen  to  her  feet  and  was  vigorously  clapping 
her  hands.  '  My  children,'  she  exclaimed, '  it  is  past  nine 
o'clock.    Silence !  silence  1 ' 

The  train  had  indeed  just  passed  Lamothe,  and  was  roll- 
ing with  a  dull  rumble  across  a  sea  of  darkness — the  endless 
plains  of  the  Landes  which  the  night  submerged.  For  ten 
minutes  already  not  a  sound  ought  to  have  been  heard  in  the 
carriage,  one  and  aU  ought  to  have  been  sleeping  or  suffering 
uncomplainingly.    However,  a  mutiny  broke  out. 

•Ohl  Sister  I'  exclaimed  Marie,  whose  eyes  were  sparkling, 

88  LOUkDES 

'allow  us  just  another  short  quarter  of  an  hour  I  We  have 
got  to  the  most  interesting  part.' 

Ten,  twenty  voices  took  up  the  cry :  '  Oh  yes,  Sister, 
please  do  let  us  have  another  short  quarter  of  an  hour ! ' 

They  all  wished  to  hear  the  continuation,  burning  with  as 
much  curiosity  as  though  they  had  not  known  the  story,  so 
captivated  were  they  by  the  touches  of  compassionate  human 
feeling  which  Pierre  introduced  into  his  narrative.  Their 
glances  never  left  him,  aU  their  heads  were  stretched  towards 
him,  fantastically  illumined  by  the  flickering  light  of  the 
lamps.  And  it  was  not  only  the  sick  who  displayed  this 
interest ;  the  ten  women  occupying  the  compartment  at  the 
far  end  of  the  carriage  had  also  become  impassioned,  and, 
happy  at  not  missing  a  single  word,  turned  their  poor  ugly 
faces,  now  beautified  by  naive  faith. 

'  No,  I  cannot ! '  Sister  Hyaeinthe  at  first  declared ;  '  the 
rules  are  very  strict — you  must  be  silent.' 

However,  she  weakened,  she  herself  feeling  so  interested 
in  the  tale,  that  she  could  detect  her  heart  beating  under  her 
stomacher.  Then  Marie  again  repeated  her  request  in  an 
entreating  tone ;  whUst  her  father,  M.  de  Guersaint,  who  had 
listened  like  one  hugely  amused,  declared  that  they  would  all 
fall  ill  if  the  story  were  not  continued.  And  thereupon,  see- 
ing Madame  de  Jonqui^re  smile  with  an  indulgent  air,  Sister 
Hyaeinthe  ended  by  consenting. 

'  Well  then,'  said  she,  '  I  will  allow  you  another  short 
quarter  of  an  hour ;  but  only  a  short  quarter  of  an  hour, 
mind.  That  is  understood,  is  it  not  ?  For  I  should  other- 
wise be  in  fault.' 

Pierre  had  waited  quietly  without  attempting  to  intervene. 
And  he  resumed  his  narrative  in  the  same  penetrating  voice 
as  before,  a  voice  in  which  his  own  doubts  were  softened  by 
pity  for  those  who  suffer  and  who  hope. 

The  scene  of  the  story  was  now  transferred  to  Lourdes,  to 
the  Eue  des  Petits  Fosses,  a  narrow,  tortuous,  mournful  street 
taking  a  downward  course  between  humble  houses  and 
roughly  plastered  dead  walls.  The  Soubirous  family  occupied 
a  single  room  on  the  ground  floor  of  one  of  these  sorry  habi- 
tations, a  room  at  the  end  of  a  dark  passage,  in  which  seven 
persons  were  huddled  together,  the  father,  the  mother,  and 
five  children.  You  could  scarcely  see  in  the  chamber ;  from 
the  tmy,  damp  inner  courtyard  of  the  house  there  came  but 
a  greenish  light.    And  in  that  room  they  slept,  all  of  a  heap ; 


and  there  also  tkey  ate,  when  they  had  bread.  For  sorae  time 
past  the  father,  a  miller  by  trade,  could  only  with  difficulty 
obtain  work  as  a  journeyman.  And  it  was  from  that  dark 
hole,  that  lowly  wretchedness,  that  Bernadette,  the  elder  girl, 
with  Marie  her  sister,  and  Jeanne,  a  little  friend  of  the 
neighbourhood,  went  out  to  pick  up  dead  wood,  on  the  cold 
February  Thursday  already  spoken  of. 

Then  the  beautiful  tale  was  unfolded  at  length  ;  how  the 
three  girls  followed  the  bank  of  the  Gave  from  the  other  side 
of  the  castle,  and  how  they  ended  by  finding  themselves  on 
the  lie  du  Chalet  in  front  of  the  rock  of  Massabielle,  from 
which  they  were  only  separated  by  the  narrow  stream  diverted 
from  the  Gave,  and  used  for  working  the  mill  of  Sdvy.  It  was 
a  wild  spot,  whither  the  common  herdsman  often  brought  the 
pigs  of  the  neighbourhood,  which,  when  showers  suddenly' 
came  on,  would  take  shelter  under  this  rock  of  Massabielle,  at 
whose  base  there  was  a  kind  of  grotto  of  no  great  depth, 
blocked  at  the  entrance  by  eglantine  and  brambles.  The 
girls  found  dead  wood  very  scarce  ihat  day,  but  at  last  on 
seeing  on  the  other  side  of  the  stream  quite  a  gleaning  of 
branches  deposited  there  by  the  torrent,  Marie  and  Jeanne 
crossed  over  through  the  water ;  whilst  Bernadette,  more 
deUcate  than  they  were,  a  trifle  young-ladyfied,  perhaps, 
remained  on  the  bank  lamenting,  and  not  daring  to  wet  her 
feet.  She  was  suffering  slightly  from  humour  in  the  head, 
and  her  mother  had  expressly  bidden  her  to  wrap  herself  in 
her  capulet,  a  large  white  cwpulet  *  which  contrasted  vividly 
with  her  old,  black  wooUen  dress.  When  she  found  that  her 
companions  would  not  help  her,  she  resignedly  made  up  her 
mind  to  take  o£f  her  sabots,  and  pull  down  her  stockings.  It 
was  then  about  noon,  the  three  strokes  of  the  Angelus  rang 
out  from  the  parish  church,  rising  into  the  broad  calm  winter 
sky,  which  was  somewhat  veiled  by  fine  fleecy  clouds.  And 
it  was  then  that  a  great  agitation  arose  within  her,  resounding 
in  her  ears  with  such  a  tempestuous  roar  that  she  fancied  a 
hurricane  had  descended  from  the  mountains,  and  was  pass- 
ing over  her.  But  she  looked  at  the  trees  and  was  stupefied, 
for  not  a  leaf  was  stirring.  Then  she  thought  that  she  had 
been  mistaken,  and  was  about  to  pick  up  her  sabots,  when 
again  the  great  gust  swept  through  her ;  but,  this  time,  the 

*  This  is  a  kind  of  hood,  more  generally  known  among  the  Beamese 
peasantry  as  a  sarot.  Whilst  forming  a  coif  it  also  completely  covers 
the  back  and  shoulders. — Trans, 


disturbance  in  the  ears  reached  her  eyes,  she  no  longer  saw 
the  trees,  but  was  dazzled  by  a  whiteness,  a  kind  of  bright 
light  which  seemed  to  her  to  settle  itself  against  the  rock, 
in  a  narrow,  lofty  slit  above  the  grotto,  not  unlike  an  ogival 
window  of  a  cathedral.  In  her  fright  she  fell  upon  her  knees. 
What  could  it  be,  Man  Dieu'i  Sometunes,  during  bad 
weather,  when  her  asthma  oppressed  her  more  than  usual, 
she  spent  very  bad  nights,  incessantly  dreaming  dreams  which 
were  often  painful,  and  whose  stifling  effect  she  retained  on 
awaking,  even  when  she  had  ceased  to  remember  anything. 
Flames  would  surround  her,  the  sun  would  flash  before  her 
face.  Had  she  dreamt  in  that  fashion  during  the  previous 
night  ?  Was  this  the  continuation  of  some  forgotten  dream  ? 
However,  little  by  little  a  form  became  outlined,  she  believed 
that  she  could  distinguish  a  figure  which  the  vivid  light 
rendered  intensely  white.  In  her  fear  lest  it  should  be  the 
devil,  for  her  mind  was  haunted  by  tales  of  vritohcraft,  she 
began  to  tell  her  beads.  And  when  the  light  had  slowly 
faded  away,  and  she  had  crossed  the  canal  and  joined  Marie 
and  Jeanne,  she  was  surprised  to  find  that  neither  of  them 
had  seen  anything  whilst  they  were  picking  up  the  wood  in 
front  of  the  Grotto.  On  their  way  back  to  Lourdes  the  three 
girls  talked  together.  So  she,  Bemadette  had  seen  something 
then?  What  was  it?  At  first,  feeling  uneasy,  and  some- 
what ashamed,  she  would  not  answer ;  but  at  last  she  said 
that  she  had  seen  something  white. 

From  this  the  rumours  started  and  grew.  The  Soubirous, 
on  being  made  acquainted  with  the  circumstance,  evinced 
much  displeasure  at  such  childish  nonsense,  and  told  their 
daughter  that  she  was  not  to  return  to  the  rock  of  Massabielle. 
All  the  children  of  the  neighbourhood,  however,  were  already 
repeating  the  tale,  and  when  Sunday  came  the  parents  had  to 
give  way,  and  allow  Bemadette  to  betake  herself  to  the 
Grotto  with  a  bottle  of  holy  water  to  ascertain  if  it  were  really 
the  devil  whom  one  had  to  deal  with.  She  then  again  beheld 
the  light,  the  figure  became  more  clearly  defined,  and  smiled 
upon  her,  evincing  no  fear  whatever  of  the  holy  water.  And, 
on  the  ensuing  Thursday,  she  once  more  returned  to  the  spot 
accompanied  by  several  persons,  and  then  for  the  first  time 
the  radiant  lady  assiuned  sufficient  corporaUty  to  speak,  and 
say  to  her :  'Do  me  the  kindness  to  come  here  for  fifteen 

Thus,  little  by  Uttle,  the  lady  had  assumed  a  precise  ap- 


pearauce.  The  something  clad  in  white  had  become  indeed  a 
lady  more  beautiful  than  a  queen,  of  a  kind  such  as  is  only 
seen  in  pictures.  At  first,  in  presence  of  the  questions  with 
which  all  the  neighbours  plied  her  from  morning  till  evening, 
Bernadette  had  hesitated,  disturbed,  perhaps,  by  scruples  of 
conscience.  But  then,  as  though  prompted  by  the  very  inter- 
rogatories to  which  she  was  subjected,  she  seemed  to  perceive 
the  figure  which  she  had  beheld,  more  plainly,  so  that  it  defi- 
nitively assumed  life,  with  lines  and  hues  from  which  the 
child,  in  her  after-descriptions,  never  departed.  The  lady's 
eyes  were  blue  and  very  mUd,  her  mouth  was  rosy  and 
smiling,  the  oval  of  her  face  expressed  both  the  grace  of  youth 
and  of  maternity.  Below  the  veil  covering  her  head  and 
falling  to  her  heels,  only  a  glimpse  was  caught  of  her  admir- 
a{ble  fair  hair,  which  was  slightly  curled.  Her  robe,  which 
was  of  dazzling  whiteness,  must  have  been  of  some  material 
unknown  on  earth,  some  material  woven  of  the  sun's  rays. 
Her  sash,  of  the  same  hue  as  the  heavens,  was  fastened  loosely, 
about  her,  its  long  ends  streaming  downwards,  with  the  light 
airiness  of  morning.  Her  ohaplet,  wound  about  her  right 
arm,  had  beads  of  a  milky  whiteness,  whilst  the  links  and  the 
cross  were  of  gold.  And  on  her  bare  feet,  on  her  adorable 
feet  of  virgin  snow,  flowered  two  golden  roses,  the  mystic 
roses  of  this  divine  mother's  immaculate  flesh. 

Where  was  it  that  Bernadette  had  seen  this  Blessed 
Virgin,  of  such  traditionally  simple  composition,  unadorned 
by  a  single  jewel,  having  but  the  primitive  grace  imagined  by 
the  painters  of  a  people  in  its  childhood  ?  In  which  illus- 
trated book  belonging  to  her  foster-mother's  brother,  the  good 
priest,  who  read  such  attractive  stories,  had  she  beheld  this 
Virgin?  Or  in  what  picture,  or  what  statuette,  or  what 
stained-glass  window;  of  the  painted  and  gilded  church  where 
she  had  spent  so  many  evenings  whilst  growing  up  ?  And 
whence,  above  aU  things^  had  come  those  golden  roses  poised 
on  the  Virgin's  feet,  that  piously  imagined  florescence  of 
woman's  flesh — from  what  romance  of  chivalry,  fi:om  what 
story  told  after  catechism  by  tlie  Abb6  Ader,  firom  what  un- 
conscious dream  indulged  in-  under  the  shady  foliage  of 
!$artrSs,  whilst  ever  and  ever  repeating  that  haunting  AngeUo 
Salutation  ? 

Pierre's  voice  had  acquired  a  yet  more  feeling  tone,  for  if 
he  did  not  say  all  these  things  to  the  simple-minded  folks 
who  were  lii^t'ening  to  him,  still  tho  human  explanation  of  all 


these  prodigies  •which  the  feeling  of  doubt  in  the  depths  of  his 
being  strove  to  supply,  imparted  to  his  narrative  a  quiver  of 
sympathetic,  fraternal  love.  He  loved  Bernadette  the  better 
for  the  great  charm  of  her  hallucination — that  lady  of  such  gra- 
cious access,  such  perfect  amiabihty,  such  politeness  in  appear- 
ing and  disappearing  so  appropriately.  At  first  the  great  light 
would  show  itself,  then  the  vision  took  form,  came  and  went, 
leant  forward,  moved  about,  floating  imperceptibly,  with 
ethereal  lightness ;  and  when  it  vanished  the  glow  Imgered 
for  yet  another  moment,  and  then  disappeared  like  a  star 
fading  away.  No  lady  in  this  world  could  have  such  a  white 
and  rosy  face,  with  a  beauty  so  aMn  to  that  of  the  Virgins  on 
the  picture-cards  given  to  children  at  their  first  communions. 
And  it  was  strange  that  the  eglantine  of  the  Grotto  did  not 
even  hurt  her  adorable  bare  feet  blooming  with  golden 

Pierre,  however,  at  once  proceeded  to  recount  the  other 
apparitions.  The  fourth  and  fifth  occurred  on  the  Friday 
and  the  Saturday ;  but  the  Lady,  who  shone  so  brightly  and 
who  had  not  yet  told  her  name,  contented  herself  on  these 
occasions  with  smiling  and  saluting  without  pronouncing  a 
single  word.  On  the  Sunday,  however,  she  wept,  and  said  to 
Bernadette, '  Pray  for  sinners.'  On  the  Monday,  to  the  child's 
great  grief,  she  did  not  appear,  wishing,  no  doubt,  to  try  her. 
But  on  the  Tuesday  she  confided  to  her  a  secret  which  con- 
cerned her  (the  girl)  alone,  a  secret  which  she  was  never  to 
divulge  ;  *  and  then  she  at  last  told  her  what  mission  it  was 
that  she  entrusted  to  her  :  '  Go  and  tell  the  priests,'  she  said, 
'  that  they  must  build  a  chapel  here.'  On  the  Wednesday 
she  frequently  murmured  the  word  '  Penitence !  penitence  I 
penitence  1 '  which  the  child  repeated,  afterwards  Mssing  the 
earth.  On  the  Thursday  the  Lady  said  to  her;  'Go,  and 
drink,  and  wash  at  the  spring,  and  eat  of  the  grass  that  is 
beside  it,'  words  which  the  visionary  ended  by  understanding, 
when  in  the  depths  of  the  Grotto  a  source  suddenly  sprang 
up  beneath  her  fingers.  And  this  was  the  miracle  of  the 
enchanted  fountain. 

Then  the  second  week  ran  its  course.  The  Lady  did  not 
appear  on  the  Friday,  but  was  punctual  on  the  five  following 

*  In  a  like  way,  it  will  be  Temembered,  the  apparition  at  La  Saletta 
confided  a  secret  to  M^lanie  and  Maximin  (see  ante,  note,  p.  86).  There 
can  be  little  doubt  that  Bernadette  was  acquainted  with  the  story  of  the 
miracle  of  La  Salette. — 2Vo7M. 


days,  repeating  her  commands  and  gazing  with  a  smile  at  the 
humble  girl  whom  she  had  chosen  to  do  her  bidding,  and  who, 
on  her  side,  told  her  beads  at  each  apparition,  kissed  the  earth 
and  repaired  on  her  knees  to  the  source,  there  to  drink  and 
wash.  At  last,  on  Thursday,  March  4,  the  last  day  of  these 
mystical  assignations,  the  Lady  requested  more  pressiagly 
than  before  that  a  chapel  might  be  erected  in  order  that  the 
nations  might  come  thither  ia  procession  from  all  parts  of  the 
earth.  So  far,  however,  in  reply  to  all  Bernadette's  appeals, 
she  had  refused  to  say  who  she  was ;  and  it  was  only  three 
weeks  later,  on  Thursday,  March  25,  that,  joining  her  hands 
together,  and  raising  her  eyes  to  Heaven,  she  said  :  '  I  am  the 
Immaculate  Conception.'  On  two  other  occasions,  at  some- 
what long  intervals,  April  7  and  July  16,  she  again  appeared : 
the  first  time  to  perform  the  miracle  of  the  lighted  taper,  that 
taper  above  which  the  child,  plunged  in  ecstasy,  for  a  long 
time  unconsciously  left  her  hand,  without  burning  it ;  and  the 
second  time  to  bid  Bernadette  farewell,  to  favour  her  with  a 
last  smUe,  and  a  last  inclination  of  the  head  full  of  charming 
politeness.  This  made  eighteen  apparitions  all  told ;  and  never 
again  did  the  Lady  show  herself. 

Whilst  Pierre  went  on  with  his  beautiful,  marvellous 
story,  so  soothing  to  the  wretched,  he  evoked  for  himself  a 
vision  of  that  pitiable,  lovable  Bernadette,  whose  sufferings 
had  flowered  so  wonderfully.  As  a  doctor  had  roughly  ex- 
pressed it,  this  girl  of  fourteen,  at  a  critical  period  of  her 
life,  already  ravaged,  too,  by  asthma,  was,  after  all,  simply 
an  exceptional  victim  of  hysteria,  afflicted  with  a  degenerate 
heredity  and  lapsing  into  infancy.  If  there  were  no  violent 
crises  in  her  case,  if  there  were  no  stiffening  of  the  muscles 
during  her  attacks,  if  she  retained  a  precise  recollection 
of  her  dreams,  the  reason  was  that  her  case  was  peculiar 
to  herself,  and  she  added,  so  to  say,  a  new  and  very  curi- 
ous form  to  aU  the  forms  of  hysteria  known  at  the  time. 
Miracles  only  begin  when  things  cannot  be  explained;  and 
science,  so  far,  knows  and  can  explain  so  little,  so  infinitely  do 
the  phenomena  of  disease  vary  according  to  the  nature  of  the 
patient  1  But  how  many  shepherdesses  there  had  been  before 
Bernadette  who  had  seen  the  Virgin  in  a  similar  way,  amidst 
all  the  same  childish  nonsense  !  Was  it  not  always  the  same 
story,  the  Lady  clad  in  light,  the  secret  confided,  the  spring 
bursting  forth,  the  mission  which  had  to  be  fulfilled,  the  miracles 
whose  enchantments  would  convert  the  masses  ?    And  was 


not  the  personal  appearance  of  the  Virgin  always  in  accor- 
dance Trith  a  poor  child's  dreams — akin  to  some  coloured  figure 
in  a  missal,  an  ideal  compounded  of  traditional  beauty,  gentle- 
ness, and  politeness.  And  the  same  dreams  showed  themselves 
in  the  naivete  of  the  means  which  were  to  be  employed  and  of 
the  object  which  was  to  be  attained-^the  deliverance  of  nations, 
the  building  of  churches,  the  processional  pilgrimages  of  the 
faithful !  Then,  too,  all  the  words  which  fell  from  Heaven 
resembled  one  another,  calls  for  penitence,  promises  of  help ; 
and  in  this  respect,  in  Bernadette's  case,  the  only  new  feature 
was  that  most  extraordinary  declaration  :  '  I  am  the  Immacu- 
late Conception,'  which  burst  forth — very  usefully — as  the 
recognition  by  the  Blessed  Virgin  herself  of  the  dogma  pro- 
mulgated by  the  Court  of  Eome  but  three  years  previously  ! 
It  was  not  the  Immaculate  Virgin  who  appeared :  no,  it  was 
the  Immaculate  Conception,  the  abstraction  itself,  the  thing, 
the  dogma,  so  that  one  might  well  ask  oneself  if  really  the 
Virgin  had  spoken  in  such  a  fashion.  As  for  the  other  words, 
it  was  possible  that  Bemadette  had  heard  them  somewhere 
and  stored  them  up  in  some  unconscious  nook  of  her  memory. 
But  these — '  I  am  the  Immaculate  Conception ' — whence  had 
they  come  as  though  expressly  to  fortify  a  dogma — still  bit- 
terly discussed — with  such  prodigious  support  as  the  direct 
testunony  of  the  Mother  conceived  without  sin  ?  At  this 
thought,  Pierre  who  was  convinced  of  Bernadette's  absolute 
good  faith,  who  refused  to  believe  that  she  had  been  the  instru- 
ment of  a  fraud,  began  to  waver,  deeply  agitated,  feeling  his 
belief  in  truth  totter  within  him. 

The  apparitions,  however,  had  caused  intense  emotion  at 
Lourdes ;  crowds  flocked  to  the  spot,  miracles  began,  and 
those  inevitable  persecutions  broke  out  which  ensure  the 
triumph  of  new  reUgions.  Abb6  Peyramale,  the  parish  priest 
of  Lourdes,  an  extremely  honest  man,  with  an  upright, 
vigorous  mind,  was  able  in  all  truth  to  declare  that  he  did  not 
know  this  child,  that  she.  had  not  yet  been  seen  at  catechism. 
Where  was  the  pressure  then,  where  the  lesson  learnt  by 
heart?  There  was  nothing  but  those  years  of  childhood 
spent  at  Bartr^s,  the  first  teachings  of  Abb6  Ader,  conver- 
sations possibly,  religioas  ceremonies  in  honour  of  the  recently 
proclaimed  dogma,  or  simply  the  gift  of  one  of  those  com- 
memorative medals  which  had  been  scattered  in  profusion. 
Never  did  Abb6  Ader  reappear  upon  the  scene,  he  who 
had  predicted  the  mission  of  the  future  visionary.    He  was 


flestined  to  remain  apart  from  Bernadette  and  her  future 
career,  he  who,  the  first,  had  seen  her  little  soul  blossom  in 
his  pious  hands.  And  yet  all  the  unknown  forces  that  had 
sprung  from  that  sequestered  -village,  from  that  nook  of 
greenery  where  superstition  and  poverty  of  intelligence  pre- 
vailed, were  still  making  themselves  felt,  disturbing  the 
brains  of  men,  disseminating  the  contagion  of  the  mysteri- 
ous. It  was  remembered  that  a  shepherd  of  Argelfis,  speaking^ 
of  the  rock  of  Massabielle,  had  prophesied  that  great  things> 
would  take  place  there.  Other  children,  moreover,  now  fell 
in  ecstasy  with  their  eyes  dilated  and  their  Umbs  quivering 
with  convulsions,  but  these  only  saw  the  devil.  A  whirlwind 
of  madness  seemed  to  be  passing  over  the  region.  An  old  lady 
of  Lourdes  declared  that  Bernadette  was  simply  a  witch  and 
that  she  had  herself  seen  the  toad's  foot  in  her  eye.  But  for 
the  others,  for  the  thousands  of  pilgrims  who  hastened  to  the 
spot,  she  was  a  saint,  and  they  kissed  her  garments.  Sobs 
burst  forth  and  frenzy  seemed  to  seize  upon  the  souls  of  the 
beholders,  when  she  fell  upon  her  knees  before  the  Grotto,  a 
lighted  taper  in  her  right  hand,  whilst  with  the  left  she  told 
the  beads  of  her  rosary.  She  became  very  pale  and  quite 
beautiful,  transfigured,  so  to  say.  Her  features  gently 
ascended  in  her  face,  lengthened  into  an  expression  of  extra- 
ordinary beatitude,  whilst  her  eyes  filled  with  light,  and  her 
lips  parted  as  though  she  were  speaking  words  which  could 
not  be  heard.  And  it  was  quite  certain  that  she  had  no  will 
of  her  own  left  her,  penetrated  as  she  was  by  her  dream, 
possessed  by  it  to  such  a  point  in  the  confined,  exclusive 
sphfere  in  which  she  lived,  that  she  continued  dreaming  it  even 
when  awake,  and  thus  accepted  it  as  the  only  indisputable 
reality,  prepared  to  testify  to  it  even  at  the  cost  of  her  blood, 
repeating  it  over  and  over  again,  obstinately,  stubbornly  cling- 
ing to  it,  and  never  varying  in  the  details  she  gave.  She  diS 
not  lie,  for  she  did  not  know,  could  not  and  would  not  desire 
anything,  apart  from  it. 

Forgetful  of  the  flight  of  tims,  Pierre  was  now  sketching  a 
charming  picture  of  old  Lourdes,  that  pious  little  town, 
slumbering  at  the  foot  of  the  Pyrenees.  The  castle,  perched 
on  a  rock  at  the  point  of  intersection  of  the  seven  vaUeys  of 
Lavedan,  had  formerly  been  the  key  of  the  mountain  districts. 
But,  in  Bernadette's  time,  it  had  become  a  mere  dismantled, 
ruined  pile,  at  the  entra,nce  of  a  road  leading  nowhere.  Modern 
life  found  its  march  stayed  by  a  formidable  rampart  of  lofty, 


snow-capped  peaks,  and  only  the  trans-Pyrenean  railway — had 
it  been  constructed — could  have  established  an  active  circula- 
tion of  social  life  in  that  sequestered  nook  where  human  exis- 
tence stagnated  like  dead  water.  Forgotten,  therefore,  Lourdes 
remained  slumbering,  happy  and  sluggish  amidst  its  old-time 
peacefulness,  with  its  narrow,  pebble-paved  streets  and  its 
black  houses  with  dressings  of  marble.  The  old  roofs  were 
still  all  massed  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  castle  ;  the  Rue  de  la 
Grotte,  then  called  the  Eue  du  Bois,  was  but  a  deserted  and 
often  impassable  road ;  no  houses  stretched  down  to  the  Gave 
as  now,  and  the  scum-laden  waters  rolled  through  a  perfect 
solitude  of  pollard  wiUows  and  tall  grass.  On  weekdays  but 
few  people  passed  across  the  Place  du  Marcadal,  such  as 
housewives  hastening  on  errands,  and  petty  cits  airing  their 
leisure  hours ;  and  you  had  to  wait  tiU  Sundays  or  fair  days 
to  find  the  inhabitants  rigged  out  in  their  best  clothes  and 
assembled  on  the  Champ  Commun,  in  company  with  the 
crowd  of  graziers  who  had  come  down  from  the  distant  table- 
lands with  their  cattle.  During  the  season  when  people  resort 
to  the  Pyrenean  waters,  the  passage  of  the  visitors  to  Cauterets 
and  Bagneres  also  brought  some  animation  ;  diligences  passed 
through  the  town  twice  a  day  :  but  they  came  from  Pau  by  a 
wretched  road,  and  had  to  ford  the  Lapaca,  which  often  over- 
flowed its  banks.  Then  climbing  the  steep  ascent  of  the  Eue 
Basse,  they  skirted  the  terrace  of  the  church,  which  was 
shaded  by  large  elms.  And  what  soft  peacefulness  prevailed 
in  and  around  that  old  semi- Spanish  church,  full  of  ancient 
carvings,  columns,  screens,  and  statues,  peopled  with 
visionary  patches  of  gilding  and  painted  flesh,  which  time 
tad  mellowed  and  which  you  faintly  discerned  as  by  the 
light  of  mystical  lamps !  The  whole  population  came  there 
to  worship,  to  fiU  their  eyes  with  the  dream  of  the  Mysterious. 
There  were  no  unbelievers,  the  inhabitants  of  Lourdes  were  a 
people  of  primitive  faith ;  each  corporation  marched  behind 
the  banner  of  its  saint,  brotherhoods  of  aU  kinds  united  the 
entire  town,  on  festival  mornings,  in  one  large  Christian  family. 
And,  as  with  some  exquisite  flower  that  has  grown  in  the  soil 
of  its  choice,  great  purity  of  life  reigned  there.  There  was 
not  even  a  resort  of  debauchery  for  young  men  to  wreck  their 
lives,  and  the  girls,  one  and  all,  grew  up  with  the  perfume  and 
beauty  of  innocence,  under  the  eyes  of  the  Blessed  Virgin, 
Tower  of  Ivory  and  Seat  of  Wisdom. 

And  how  well  one  could  understand  that  Bernadette, 


jbom  in  that  holy  soil,  should  flower  in  it,  like  one  of  nature'8 
roses  budding  in  the  wayside  bushes !  She  was  indeed  the 
very  florescence  of  that  region  of  ancient  beUef  and  rectitude ; 
she  would  certainly  not  have  sprouted  elsewhere ;  she  could 
»nly  appear  and  develop  there,  amidst  that  belated  race, 
^dfit  the  slumberous  peacefulness  of  a  child-Uke  people, 
under  the  moral  discipline  of  rehgion.  And  what  intense 
love  at  once  burst  forth  all  around  her!  What  blind  con- 
fidence was  displayed  in  her  mission,  what  immense  consola- 
tion and  hope  came  to  human  hearts  on  the  very  morrow  of 
the  first  miracles  1  A  long  cry  of  relief  had  greeted  the  cure 
of  old  Bourriette  recovering  his  sight,  and  of  little  Justin 
Bouhohorts  coming  to  life  again  in  the  icy  water  of  the. 
spring.  At  last,  then,  the  Blessed  Virgia  was  intervening  in 
favour  of  those  who  despaired,  forcing  that  imkind  mother. 
Nature,  to  be  just  and  charitable.  This  was  divine  omnipo- 
tence returning  to  reign  on  earth,  sweeping  the  laws  of  the 
world  aside  in  order  to  work  the  happiness  of  the  suffering 
and  the  poor.  The  miracles  multiplied,  blazed  forth,  from 
day  to  day  more  and  more  extraordinary,  hke  unimpeachable 
proof  of  Bernadette's  veracity.  And  she  was,  indeed,  the 
rose  of  the  divine  garden,  whose  deeds  shed  perfume,  the 
rose  who  beholds  all  the  other  flowers  of  grace  and  salvation 
spring  into  being  around  her. 

Pierre  had  reached  this  point  of  his  story,  and  was  again 
enumerating  the  miracles,  on  the  point  of  recounting  the 
prodigious  triumph  of  the  Grotto,  when  Sister  Hyaointhe, 
awaking  with  a  start,  from  the  ecstasy  into  which  the 
narrative  had  plunged  her,  hastily  rose  to  her  feet.  '  Eeally, 
really,'  said  she,  'there  is  no  sense  in  it.  It  wUl  soon  be 
eleven  o'clock.' 

This  was  true.  They  had  left  Morceux  behind  them,  and 
would  now  soon  be  at  Mont  de  Marsan.  So  Sister  Hyacinthe 
clapped  her  hands  once  more,  and  added :  '  Silence,  my  chil- 
dren, silence ! ' 

This  time  they  did  not  dare  to  rebel,  for  they  felt  she  was 
in  the  right,  they  were  unreasonable.  But  how  greatly  they 
regretted  not  hearing  the  continuation,  how  vexed  they  were 
that  the  story  should  cease  when  only  half  told !  The  ten 
women  in  the  further  compartment  even  let  a  murmur  of 
disappointment  escape  .them ;  whilst  the  sick,  their  faces 
still  outstretched,  their  dilated  eyes  gazing  upon  the  light  of 
hope,  seemed  to  be  yet  listening.    Those  miracles  which  ever 



and  ever  returned  to  their  minds  filled  them  with  unlimited, 
haunting,  supernatural  joy. 

'  And  don't  let  me  hear  anyone  breathe  even,'  added  Sister 
Hyaointhe  gaily,  *or  otherwise  I  shall  impose  penance  on 

Madame  de  Jonqui^re  laughed  good-naturedly.  '  You 
must  obey,  my  children,'  she  said ; '  be  good  and  get  to  sleep, 
so  that  you  may  have  strength  to  pray  at  the  Grotto  to- 
morrow with  all  your  hearts.' 

Then  silence  fell,  nobody  spoke  any  further ;  and  the  only 
sounds  were  those  of  the  rumbling  of  the  wheels  and  the  jolt- 
ing of  the  train  as  it  was  carried  along  at  full  speed  through 
the  black  night. 

Pierre,  however,  was  unable  to  sleep.  Beside  him,  M.  de 
Guersaint  was  already  snoring  lightly,  looking  very  happy 
despite  the  hardness  of  his  seat.  For  a  time  the  young 
priest  saw  Marie's  eyes  wide  open,  stUl  full  of  all  the 
radiance  of  the  marvels  that  he  had  related.  For  a  long 
while  she  kept  them  ardently  fixed  upon  his  own,  but  at  last 
closed  them,  and  then  he  knew  not  whether  she  was  sleeping, 
or  with  eyelids  simply  closed  was  living  the  everlasting 
miracle  over  agaia.  Some  of  the  sufferers  were  dreaming 
aloud,  giving  vent  to  bursts  of  laughter  which  unconscious 
moans  interrupted.  Perhaps  they  beheld  the  Archangels 
■opening  their  flesh  to  wrest  their  diseases  from  them.  Others, 
restless  with  insomnia,  turned  over  and  over,  stifling  their 
sobs  and  gazing  fixedly  into  the  darkness.  And,  with  a 
shudder  born  of  aU  the  mystery  he  had  evoked,  Pierre, 
distracted,  no  longer  master  of  himself  in  that  delirious 
sphere  of  fraternal  suffering,  ended  by  hating  his  very  mind, 
and,  drawn  into  close  communion  with  all  those  humble  folks, 
sought  to  believe  like  them.  What  could  be  the  use  of  that 
physiological  inquiry  into  Bemadette's  case,  so  full  of  gaps 
and  intricacies  ?  Why  should  he  not  accept  her  as  a  mes- 
senger from  the  spheres  beyond,  as  one  of  the  elect  chosen 
for  the  divine  mystery?  Doctors  were  but  ignorant  men 
with  rough  and  brutal  hands,  and  it  would  be  so  delightful 
to  fall  asleep  in  childlike  faith,  in  the  enchanted  gardens 
of  the  impossible.  And  for  a  moment  indeed  he  surrendered 
himself,  experiencing  a  delightful  feeling  of  comfort,  no 
longer  seeking  to  explain  anything,  but  accepting  the  vision- 
ary with  her  sumptuous  cortige  of  miracles,  and  relying  on 
God  to  think  and  determine  for  him.    Then  he  looked  out 


through  the  window,  which  they  did  not  dare  to  open  on 
account  of  the  consumptive  patients,  and  beheld  the  im- 
measurable night  which  enwrapped  the  country  across  which 
the  train  was  fleeing.  The  storm  must  have  burst  forth 
there  ;  the  sky  was  now  of  an  admirable  nocturnal  purity,  aa 
though  cleansed  by  the  masses  of  fallen  water.  Large  stars 
shone  out  in  the  dark  velvet,  alone  illumining,  with  their 
mysterious  gleams,  the  silent  refreshed  fields,  which  in- 
cessantly displayed  but  the  black  sohtude  of  slumber.  And 
across  the  Landes,  through  the  valleys,  between  the  hills,  that 
carriage  of  wretchedness  and  suffering  rolled  on  and  on, 
overheated,  pestilential,  rueful,  and  wailing,  amidst  the 
serenity  of  the  august  night,  so  lovely  and  so  mild. 

They  had  passed  Eiscle  at  one  in  the  morning.  Between 
the  jolting,  the  painful,  hallucinatory  silence  still  contiaued. 
At  two  o'clock,  as  they  reached  Vic-de-Bigorre,  low  moans 
were  heard ;  the  bad  state  of  the  line,  with  the  unbearable 
spreading  tendency  of  the  train's  motion,  was  sorely  shaking 
the  patients.  It  was  only  at  Tarbes,  at  half-past  two,  that 
silence  was  at  length  broken,  and  that  momiag  prayers 
were  said,  though  black  night  still  reigned  around  them. 
There  came  first  the  '  Pater,'  and  then  the  '  Ave,'  the  '  Credo,' 
and  the  supplication  to  God  to  grant  them  the  happiness  of 
a  glorious  day. 

'  0  God,  vouchsafe  me  sufficient  strength  that  I  may  avoid 
all  that  is  evil,  do  all  that  is  good,  and  suffer  uncomplain- 
ingly every  pain.' 

And  now  there  was  to  be  no  further  stoppage  until  they 
reached  Lourdes.  Barely  three  more  quarters  of  an  hour,  and 
Lourdes,  with  all  its  vast  hopes,  would  blasse  forth. in  the 
midst  of  that  night,  so  long  and  cruel.  Their  painful 
awakening  was  enfevered  by  the  thought ;  a  final  agitation 
arose  amidst  the  morning  discomfort,  as  the  abominable 
Bufferings  began  afresh. 

Sister  Hyacinthe,  however,  was  especially  anxious  about 
the  strange  man,  whose  sweat- covered  face  she  had  been  con- 
tinually wiping.  He  had  so  far  managed  to  keep  alive,  she 
watching  him  without  a  pause,  never  having  once  closed  her 
eyes,  but  unremittingly  listening  to  his  faint  breathing  with 
the  stubborn  desire  to  take  him  to  the  holy  Grotto  before  he 

All  at  once,  however,  she  felt  frightened ;  and  addressing 
herself  to  Madame  de  Jonqui^re,  she  hastily  exclaimed,  'Pray 



pass  me  the  -vinegar  bottle  at  once — I  can  no  longet  hear  him 

For  an  instant,  indeed,  the  man's  faint  breathing  had 
ceased.  His  eyes  were  still  closed,  his  lips  parted  ;  he  could 
not  have  been  paler,  he  had  an  ashen  hue,  and  was  cold.  And 
the  carriage  was  still  rolling  along  with  its  ceaseless  rattle 
of  coupling -irons;  the  speed  of  the  traia  seemed  even  to  have 

'  I  will  rub  his  temples,'  resumed  Sister  Hyaeinthe. 
'  Help  me,  do  ! ' 

But,  at  a  more  violent  jolt  of  the  train,  the  man  suddenly 
fell  from  the  seat,  face  downward. 

'  Ah  !  mon  Dieu,  help  me,  pick  him  up ! ' 

They  picked  him  up,  and  found  him  dead.  And  they  had 
to  seat  him  in  his  corner  agaia,  with  his  back  resting  against 
the  wood- work.  He  remained  there  erect,  his  torso  stiffened, 
and  his  head  wagging  slightly  at  each  successive  jolt.  Thus 
the  train  continued  carrying  him  along,  with  the  same 
thundering  noise  of  wheels,  whUe  the  engine,  well  pleased,  no 
doubt,  to  be  reaching  its  destination,  began  whistling  shrilly, 
giving  vent  to  quite  a  flourish  of  delirious  joy  as  it  sped 
through  the  calm  night. 

And  then  came  the  last  and  seemingly  endless  half-hour 
of  the  journey,  in  company  with  that  wretched  corpse.  Two 
big  tears  had  rolled  down  Sister  Hyacinthe's  cheeks,  and 
with  her  hands  joined  she  had  begun  to  pray.  The  whole 
carriage  shuddered  with  terror  at  sight  of  that  terrible  com- 
panion who  was  being  taken,  too  late  alas !  to  the  Blessed 

Hope,  however,  proved  stronger  than  sorrow  or  pain,  and 
although  aU  the  sufferings  there  assembled  awoke  and  grew 
again, irritated  by  overwhelming  weariness,  a  song  of  joynever- 
theless  proclaimed  the  sufferers'  triumphal  entry  into  the  Land 
of  Miracles.  Amidst  the  tears  which  their  pains  drew  from 
them,  the  exasperated  and  howling  sick  began  to  chant  the 
'  Ave  maris  Stella '  with  a  growing  clamour  in  which 
lamentation  finally  turned  into  cries  of  hope. 

Marie  had  again  taken  Pierre's  hand  between  her  little 
feverish  fingers.  '  Oh,  mon  Dieu ! '  said  she, '  to  think  that 
poor  man  is  dead,  and  I  feared  so  much  that  it  was  I 
who  would  die  before  arriving.  And  we  are  there— there  at 
last ! ' 

The  priest  was  trembling  with   intense  emotion.     '  It 


means  that  you  are  to  be  cured,  Marie,'  lie  replied,  '  and  that 

I  myself  shall  be  cured  if  you  pray  for  me ' 

The  engine  was  now  whistling  in  a  yet  louder  key  in  the 
depths  of  the  bluey  darkness.  They  were  nearing  their 
destination.  The  lights  of  Lourdes  already  shone  out  on  the 
horizon.  Then  the  whole  train  again  sang  a  canticle — the 
rhymed  story  of  Bernadette,  that  endless  ballad  of  six  times 
ton  couplets,  in  which  the  Angelic  Salutation  ever  returns  as 
a  refrain,  all  besetting  and  distracting,  opening  to  the  human 
mind  the  portals  of  the  heaven  of  ecstasy  : — 

"  It  waa  the  hour  for  ev'ning  pray'r  ; 
Soft  bells  chimed  on  the  chilly  air. 

Ave,  ave,,  ave  Maria  I 

The  maid  stood  on  the  torrent's  bank ; 
A  breeze  arose,  then  swiftly  sank. 

Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  1 

And  she  beheld,  e'en  as  it  fell, 
The  Virgin  on  Massabielle. 

Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  1 

All  white  appeared  the  Lady  chaste, 
A  zone  of  Heaven  round  her  waist. 

Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  1 

Two  golden  roses,  pure  and  sweet. 
Bloomed  brightly  on  her  naked  feet. 

Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  1 

Upon  her  arm,  all  white  and  round, 
Her  ohaplet's  milky  beads  were  wound. 
Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  1 

The  maid  prayed  on  tUl  from  her  eyes 
The  vision  sped  to  Paradise. 

Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  1 " 




It  was  twenty  minutes  past  three  by  the  clock  of  the  Lourdea 
railway  station,  the  dial  of  which  was  illumined  by  a  reflector. 
Under  the  slanting  roof  sheltering  the  platform,  a  hundred 
yards  or  so  in  length,  some  shadowy  forms  went  to  and  fro, 
resignedly  waiting.  Only  a  red  signal  light  peeped  out  of  the 
black  countryside,  far  away. 

Two  of  the  promenaders  suddenly  halted.  The  taUer  of 
them,  a  Father  of  the  Assumption,  none  other  indeed  than 
the  Eeverend  Father  Fourcade,  director  of  the  national 
pilgrimage,  who  had  reached  Lourdes  on  the  previous  day, 
was  a  man  of  sixty,  looking  superb  in  his  black  cloak  with  its 
large  hood.  His  fine  head,  with  its  clear,  domineering  eyes 
and  thick  grizzly  beard,  was  the  head  of  a  general  whom  an 
intelligent  determination  to  conquer  inflames.  In  conse- 
quence, however,  of  a  sudden  attack  of  gout  he  slightly 
dragged  one  of  his  legs,  and  was  leaning  on  the  shoulder  of 
his  companion,  Dr.  Bonamy,  the  practitioner  attached  to 
the  Miracle  Verification  Office,  a  short,  thickset  man,  with  a 
square-shaped,  clean-shaven  face,  which  had  dull,  blurred  eyes 
and  a  tranquil  cast  of  features. 

Father  Fourcade  bad  stopped  to  question  the  station- 
master  whom  he  perceived  running  out  of  his  office.  '  WiU 
the  white  train  be  very  late,  monsieur  ?  '  he  asked. 

'  No,  your  reverence.  It  hasn't  lost  more  than  ten  minutes ; 
it  will  be  here  at  the  haK-hour.  It's  the  Bayonne  train  which 
worries  me  ;  it  ought  to  have  passed  through  already.' 

So  saying,  he  ran  off  to  give  an  order ;  but  soon  came 
back  again,  his  slim,  nervous  figure  displaying  marked  signs 
of  agitation.  He  lived,  indeed,  in  a  state  of  high  fever 
throughout  the  period  of  the  great  pilgrimages.    Apart  from 


the  usual  service,  he  that  day  expected  eighteen  trains,  con- 
taining more  than  fifteen  thousand  passengers.  The  grey  and 
the  blue  trains  which  had  started  from  Paris  the  first  had 
already  arrived  at  the  regulation  hour.  But  the  delay  in  the 
arrival  of  the  white  train  was  very  troublesome,  the  more  so 
as  the  Bayonne  express — which  passed  over  the  same  rails — 
had  not  yet  been  signalled.  It  was  easy  to  imderstand  there- 
fore what  incessant  watchfulness  was  necessary,  not  a  second 
passing  without  the  entire  staff  of  the  station  being  called 
upon  to  exercise  its  vigilance. 

'  In  ten  miriutes  then  ?  '  repeated  Father  Poureade. 

'  Yes,  in  ten  minutes,  rmless  I'm  obliged  to  close  the  line  ! ' 
cried  the  station-master  as  he  hastened  iato  the  telegraph 

Father  Fourcade  and  the  doctor  slowly  resumed  their 
promenade.  The  thing  which  astonished  them  was  that  no 
serious  accident  had  ever  happened  la  the  midst  of  sach  a 
fearful  scramble.  In  past  times  especially,  the  most  terrible 
disorder  had  prevailed.  Father  Fourcade  complacently  re- 
called the  first  pilgrimage  which  he  had  organised  and  led,  in 
1875 ;  the  terrible  endless  journey  without  pillows  or  mat- 
tresses, the  patients  exhausted,  half  dead,  with  no  means  of 
reviving  them  at  hand  ;  and  then  the  arrival  at  Lourdes,  *he 
train  evacuated  in  confusion,  no  mat&rml  in  readiness,  no 
straps,  nor  stretchers,  nor  carts.  But  now  there  was  a  power- 
ful organisation ;  a  hospital  awaited  the  sick,  who  were  no 
longer  reduced  to  lying  upon  straw  in  sheds.  What  a  shock 
ifor  those  unhappy  ones  I  What  force  of  will  in  the  man  of 
faith  who  led  them  to  the  scene  of  miracles  !  The  reverend 
Father  smiled  gently  at  the  thought  of  the  work  which  he  had 

Then,  still  leaning  on  the  doctor's  shoulder,  he  began  to 
question  him  :  '  How  many  pilgrims  did  you  have  last  year  ? ' 
he  asked. 

'  About  two  hundred  thousand.  That  is  still  the  average. 
In  the  year  of  the  Coronation  of  the  Virgin  the  figure  rose  to 
five  hundred  thousand.  But  to  bring  that  about  an  excep- 
tional occasion  was  needed  with  a  great  effort  of  propaganda. 
Such  vast  masses  cannot  be  collected  together  every  day.' 

A  pause  followed,  and  then  Father  Fourcade  murmured : 
'  No  doubt.  Still  the  blessing  of  Heaven  attends  our  endea- 
vours ;  our  work  thrives  more  and  more.  We  have  collected 
more  than  two  hundred  thousand  francs  in  donations  for  this 


journey,  and  God  will  be  with  us,  there  will  be  many  cures  for 
you  to  proclaim  to-morrow,  I  am  sure  of  it.'  Then,  breaking 
off,  he  inquired :  '  Has  not  Father  Dargel^s  come  here  ? ' 

Dr.  Bonamy  waved,  his  hand  as  though  to  say-that  he  did 
not  know.  Father  Dargeles  was  the  editor  of  the  '  Journal  de 
la  Grotte.'  He  belonged  to  the  Order  of  the  Fathers  of  the 
Immaculate  Conception  whom  the  Bishop  had  installed  at 
Lourdes  and  who  were  the  absolute  masters  there ;  though, 
when  the  Fathers  of  the  Assumption  came  to  the  town  with 
the  national  pilgrimage  from  Paris,  which  crowds  of  faithful 
Catholics  from .  Cambrai,  Arras,  Chartres,  Troyes,  Eheims, 
Sens,  Orleans,  Blois,  and  Poitiers  joined,  they  evinced  a  kind 
of  affectation  in  disappearing  from  the  scene.  Their  omni- 
potence was  no  longer  felt  either  at  the  Grotto  or  at  the  Basi- 
lica ;  they  seemed  to  surrender  every  key  together  with  every 
responsibihty.  Their  superior.  Father  Capdebarthe,  a  tall, 
peasant-like  man,  with  a  knotty  frame,  a  big  head  which  looked 
as  if  it  had  been  fashioned  with  a  bDl-hook,  and  a  worn  face 
which  retained  a  ruddy  mournful  reflection  of  the  soil,  did  not 
even  show  himself.  Of  the  whole  community  you  only  saw 
Uttle,  insinuating  Father  Dargeles ;  but  he  was  met  everywhere, 
incessantly  on  the  look  out  for  paragraphs  for  his  newspaper. 
At  the  same  time,  however,  although  the  Fathers  of  the  Im- 
maculate Conception  disappeared  in  this  fashion,  it  could  be 
divined  that  they  were  behind  the  vast  stage,  like  a  hidden 
sovereign  power,  coining  money  and  toiling  without  a  pause  to 
increase  the  triumphant  prosperity  of  their  business.  Indeed, 
they  turned  even  their  humility  to  account. 

'  It's  true  that  we  have  had  to  get  up  early — two  in  the 
morning,'  resumed  Father  Fourcade  gaily.  '  But  I  wished  to 
be  here.  What  would  my  poor  children  have  said  indeed  if  I 
had  not  come  ? ' 

He  was  alluding  to  the  sick  pilgrims,  those  who  were  so 
much  flesh  for  miracle-workLag ;  and  it  was  a  fact  that  he  had 
never  missed  coming  to  the  station,  no  matter  what  the  hour, 
to  meet  that  woeful  white  train,  that  train  which  brought  such 
grievous  suffering  with  it. 

_  '  Five-and-twenty  minutes  past  three— only  another  five 
minutes  now,'  exclaimed  Dr.  Bonamy,  repressing  a  yawn  as  he 
glanced  at  the  clock ;  for,  despite  his  obsequious  air,  he  was  at 
bottom  very  much  annoyed  at  having  had  to  get  out  of  bed  so 
early.   However,  he  continued  his  slow  promenade  with  Father 


Fourcade  along  tl;at  platform  which  resembled  a  covered  walk, 
pacing  up  and  down  in  the  dense  night  which  the  gas  jets  here 
and  there  illumined  with  patches  of  yellow  light.  Little  par- 
ties, dimly  outlined,  composed  of  priests  and  gentlemen  in 
frock  coats,  with  a  solitary  officer  of  dragoons,  went  to  and 
fro  iacessantly,  talking  together  the  while  in  discreet  murmur- 
ing tones.  Other  people,  seated  on  benches,  ranged  along  the 
station  wall,  were  also  chatting  or  putting  their.patience  to 
proof  with  their  glances  wandering  away  into  the  black  stretch 
of  country  before  them.  The  doorways  of  the  offices  and  wait- 
ing rooms,  which  were  brilliantly  lighted,  looked  like  great 
holes  in  the  darkness,  and  all  was  flaring  in  the  refreshment 
room,  where  you  could  see  the  marble  tables  and  the  counter 
laden  with  bottles  and  glasses  and  baskets  of  bread  and  fruit. 

On  the  right  hand,  beyond  the  roofing  of  the  platform,  there 
was  a  confused  swarming  of  people.  There  was  here  a  goods 
gate,  by  which  the  sick  were  taken  out  of  the  station,  and  a 
mass  of  stretchers,  litters,  and  hand-carts,  with  piles  of  pillows 
and  mattresses  obstructed  the  broad  walk.  Three  parties  of 
bearers  were  also  assembled  here,  persons  of  well-nigh  every 
class,  but  more  particularly  young  men  of  good  society,  all 
wearing  red,  orange-tipped  crosses  and  straps  of  yeUow  leather. 
Many  of  them  too  had  adopted  the  Bearnese  cap,  the  conveni- 
ent headgear  of  the  region ;  and  a  few,  clad  as  though  they 
were  bound  on  some  distant  expedition,  displayed  wonderful 
gaiters  reaching  to  their  knees.  Some  were  smoking,  whilst 
others,  installed  in  their  little  vehicles,  slept  or  read  newspapers 
by  the  light  of  the  neighbouring  gas  jets.  One  group,  stand- 
ing apart,  was  discussing  some  service  question. 

Suddenly  however,  one  and  all  began  to  salute.  A  paternal- 
looking  man,  with  a  heavy  but  good-natured  face,  lighted  by 
large  blue  eyes  like  those  of  a  credulous  child,  was  approach- 
ing. It  was  Baron  SuireJ  the  President  of  the  Hospitality  of 
Our  Lady  of  Salvation.  He  possessed  a  great  fortune  and 
occupied  a  high  position  at  Toulouse. 

'  Where  is  Berthaud  ? '  he  inquired  of  one  bearer  after 
another,  with  a  busy  air.  '  Where  is  Berthaud  ?  I  must 
speak  to  him.' 

The  others  answered,  volunteering  contradictory  informa- 
tion. Berthaud  was  their  Superintendent,  and  whilst  some 
said  that  they  had  seen  him  with  the  Eeverend  Father  Four- 
cade,  others  affirmed  that  he  must  be  in  the  courtyard  of  the 


station  inspecting  the  ambulance  vehicles.  And  they  there* 
upon  offered  to  go  and  fetch  him. 

'  No,  no,  thank  you,'  replied  the  Baron.  '  I  shall  manage 
to  find  him  myself.' 

Whilst  this  was  happening  Berthaud,  who  had  just  seated 
himself  on  a  bench  at  the  other  end  of  the  station,  was  talking 
with  his  young  friend  Gerard  de  Peyrelongue,  by  way  of 
occupation  pending  the  arrival  of  the  train.  The  Superinten- 
dent of  the  Bearers  was  a  man  of  forty,  with  a  broad,  regular- 
featured,  handsome  face  and  carefully  trimmed  whiskers  of  a 
lawyer-like  pattern.  Belonging  to  a  militant  Legitimist 
family  and  holding  extremely  reactionary  opinions,  he  had 
been  Prooureur  dela  Eepublique  (public  prosecutor)  in  a  town 
of  the  south  of  Prance  from  the  time  of  the  parliamentary 
revolution  of  the  twenty-fourth  of  May*  untU  that  of  the 
decree  on  the  Eeligious  Communities,t  when  he  had  resigned 
his  post  in  a  blusterous  fashion,  by  addressing  an  insulting 
letter  to  the  Minister  of  Justice.  And  he  had  never  since 
laid  down  his  arms,  but  had  joined  the  Hospitality  of  Our 
Lady  of  Salvation  as  a  sort  of  protest,  repairing  year  after 
year  to  Lourdes  in  order  to  '  demonstrate ' ;  convinced  as  he 
was  that  the  pilgrimages  were  both  disagreeable  and  hurtful 
to  the  Bepublic,  and  that  God  alone  could  re-establish  the 
Monarchy  by  one  of  those  miracles  which  He  worked  so 
lavishly  at  the  Grotto.  Despite  all  this,  however,  Berthaud 
possessed  no  small  amount  of  good  sense,  and  being  of  a  gay 
disposition  displayed  a  kind  of  jovial  charity  towards  the  poor 
sufferers  whose  transport  he  had  to  provide  for  during  the 
three  days  that  the  national  pilgrimage  remained  at  Lourdes. 

'And  so,  my  dear  G&ard,'  he  said  to  the  young  man 
seated  beside  him, '  your  marriage  is  really  to  come  off  this 
year  ? ' 

'  Why  yes,  if  I  can  find  such  a  wife  as  I  want,'  replied  the 
other.    '  Come,  cousin,  give  me  some  good  advice.' 

Gerard  de  Peyrelongue,  a  short,  tlun,  carroty  young  man, 
with  a  pronounced  nose  and  prominent  cheek-bones,  belonged 
to  Tarbes,  where  his  father  and  mother  had  lately  died,  leaving 
him  at  the  utmost  some  seven  or  eight  thousand  francs  a 
year.    Extremely  ambitions,  he  had  been  unable  to  find  such 

*  The  parliamentary  revolution  o!  May  1873  by  which  M.  Thiers  was 
OTerthrown  and  Marshal  MacMahon  installed  in  his  place  with  the 
object  of  restoring  the  monarchy  in  France. — Trans. 

\  M.  Gravy's  decree  by  which  the  Jesuits  were  expelled.— 2V(»W. 


a  ■wife  as  he  desired  in  his  native  province — a  well-connected 
young  woman  capable  of  helping  him  to  push  both  forward 
and  upward  in  the  world ;  and  so  he  had  joined  the  Hos- 
pitality, and  betook  himself  every  summer  to  Lourdes,  in  the 
vague  hope  that  amidst  the  mass  of  beUevers,  the  torrent  of 
devout  mammas  and  daughters  which  flowed  thither,  he 
might  find  the  family  whose  help  he  needed  to  enable  him  to 
make  his  way  in  this  terrestrial  sphere.  However,  he  remained 
in  perplexity,  for  if,  on  the  one  hand,  he  already  had  several 
young  ladies  ia  view,  on  the  other,  none  of  them  completely 
satisfied  him. 

'  Eh,  cousin  ?  You  wiU  advise  me,  won't  you  ? '  he  said  to 
Berthaud.  '  You  are  a  man  of  experience.  There  is  Mademoi- 
selle Lemeroier  who  comes  here  with  her  aunt.  She  is  very 
rich ;  according  to  what  is  said  she  has  over  a  million  francs. 
But  she  doesn't  belong  to  our  set,  and  besides  I  think  her  a 
bit  of  a  madcap.' 

Berthaud  nodded.  '  I  told  you  so ;  if  I  were  you  I 
should  choose  Uttle  Eaymonde,  Mademoiselle  de  Jonqui^re.' 

'  But  she  hasn't  a  copper  ! ' 

'  That's  true — she  has  barely  enough  to  pay  for  her  board. 
But  she  is  fairly  good  looking,  she  has  been  well  brought  up, 
and  she  has  no  extravagant  tastes.  That  is  the  really  im- 
portant point,  for  what  is  the  use  of  marrying  a  rich  girl  if 
she  squanders  the  dowry  she  brings  you  ?  Besides,  I  know 
Madame  and  Mademoiselle  de  Jonqui^re  very  well,  I  meet 
them  all  through  the  winter  in  the  most  influential  drawing 
rooms  of  Paris.  And,  finally,  don't  forget  the  girl's  uncle, 
the  diplomatist,  who  has  had  the  painful  courage  to  remain 
in  the  service  of  the  Eepublio.  He  will  be  able  to  do  whatever 
he  pleases  for  his  niece's  husband.' 

For  a  moment  Gerard  seemed  shaken,  and  then  he 
relapsed  into  perplexity.  '  But  she  hasn't  a  copper,'  he  said, 
'  no,  not  a  copper.  It's  too  stiff.  I  am  quite  wilHng  to  think 
it  over,  but  it  reaUy  frightens  me  too  much.' 

This  time  Berthaud  burst  into  a  frank  laugh.  '  Come, 
you  are  ambitious,  so  you  must  be  daring.  I  tell  you  that  it 
means  the  Secretaryship  of  an  embassy  before  two  years  are 
over.  By  the  way,  Madame  and  Mademoiselle  de  Jonqui^re 
are  in  the  white  train  which  we  are  waiting  for.  Make  up 
your  mind  and  pay  your  court  at  once;' 

'  No,  no  1    Later  on.    I  want  to  think  it  over.' 

At  this  moment  they  were  interrupted,  for  Baron  Suire, 


who  had  already  once  gone  by  without  perceiving  them,  so 
completely  did  the  darkness  enshroud  them  in  that  retired 
corner,  had  just  recognised  the  ex-public  prosecutor's  good- 
naturedlaugh.  And,  thereupon,  with  the  volubility  of  a  man 
whose  head  is  easily  unhinged,  he  gave  him  several  orders 
respecting  the  vehicles  and  the  transport  service,  deploring 
the  circumstance  that  it  would  be  impossible  to  conduct  the 
patients  to  the  Grotto  immediately  on  their  arrival,  as  it  was 
yet  so  extremely  early.  It  had  therefore  been  decided  that 
they  should  in  the  first  instance  be  taken  to  the  Hospital  of 
Our  Lady  of  Dolours,  where  they  would  be  able  to  rest  a 
while  after  their  trying  journey. 

Whilst  the  Baron  and  the  Superintendent  were  thug 
settling  what  measures  should  be  adopted  Gerard  shook 
hands  with  a  priest  who  had  sat  down  beside  him.  This  was 
the  Abbe  Des  Hermoises,  who  was  barely  eight-and-thirty 
years  of  age  and  had  a  superb  head — such  a  head  as  one 
might  expect  to  find  on  the  shoulders  of  a  worldly  priest. 
With  his  hair  well  combed,  and  his  person  perfumed,  he  was 
not  unnaturally  a  great  favourite  among  women.  Very 
amiable  and  distinguished  in  his  manners,  he  did  not  come  to 
Lourdes  in  any  official  capacity,  but  simply  for  his  pleasure, 
as  so  many  other  people  did ;  and  the  bright,  sparkling 
smile  of  a  sceptic  above  all  idolatry,  gleamed  in  the  depths  of 
his  fine  eyes.  He  certainly  believed,  and  bowed  to  superior 
decisions ;  but  the  Church — the  Holy  See — had  not  pro- 
nounced itself  vrith  regard  to  the  miracles ;  and  he  seemed 
quite  ready  to  dispute  their  authenticity.  Having  lived  at 
Tarbes  he  was  already  acquainted  with  Gerard. 

'  Ah ! '  he  said  to  him,  '  how  impressive  it  is — isn't  it  ? — 
this  waiting  for  the  trains  in  the  middle  of  the  night !  I  have 
come  to  meet  a  lady — one  of  my  former  Paris  penitents — but 
I  don't  know  what  train  she  will  come  by.  Still,  as  you  see, 
I  stop  on,  for  it  aU  interests  me  so  much." 

Then  another  priest,  an  old  country  priest,  having  come 
to  sit  down  on  the  same  bench,  the  abb6  considerately  began 
talking  to  him,  speaking  of  the  beauty  of  the  Lourdes  district 
and  of  the  theatrical  efleet  which  would  take  place  by-and-by 
when  the  sun  rose  and  the  mountains  appeared. 
,  However,  there  was  again  a  sudden  alert,  and  the  station- 
master  ran  along  shouting  orders.  Removing  his  hand  fcom 
Dr.  Bonamy's  shoulder,  Father  Fouroade,  despite  hia  gouty 
l^g,  hastily  drew  near. 


'  Oh !  it's  that  Bayonne  express  which  is  so  late,! 
answered  the  station-master  in  reply  to  the  questions  ad- 
dressed to  him.  '  I  should  like  some  information  about  it, 
I'm  not  at  ease.' 

At  this  moment  the  telegraph  bells  rang  out  and  a  porter 
rushed  away  into  the  darkness  swinging  a  lantern,  whilst  a 
distant  signal  began  to  work.  Thereapon  the  station-master 
resumed :  '  Ah  !  this  time  it's  the  white  train.  Let  us  hope 
we  shall  have  time  to  get  the  sick  people  out  before  the  express 

He  started  off  once  more  and  disappeared.  Berthaud 
meanwhile  called  to  G6rard,  who  was  at  the  head  of  a  squad 
of  bearers,  and  they  both  made  haste  to  join  their  men,  into 
whom  Baron  Suire  was  already  instilling  activity.  The 
bearers  flocked  to  the  spot  from  all  sides,  and  setting  them- 
selves in  motion  began  dragging  their  little  vehicles  across 
the  lines  to  the  platform  at  which  the  white  train  would  come 
in — an  unroofed  platform  plunged  in  darkness.  A  mass  of 
pillows,  mattresses,  stretchers,  and  litters  was  soon  waiting 
there,  whilst  Father  Fouroade,  Dr.  Bonamy,  the  priests,  the 
gentlemen,  and  the  officer  of  dragoons  in  their  turn  crossed 
over  in  order  to  witness  the  removal  of  the  ailing  pilgrims. 
All  that  they  could  as  yet  see,  far  away  in  the  depths  of  the 
black  country,  was  the  lantern  ia  front  of  the  engine,  looking 
like  a  red  star  which  grew  larger  and  larger.  Strident  whistles 
pierced  the  night,  then  suddenly  ceased,  and  you  only  heard 
the  panting  of  the  steam  and  the  dull  roar  of  the  wheels 
gradually  slackening  their  speed.  Then  the  canticle  became 
distinctly  audible,  the  song  of  Bernadette  with  the  ever- 
recurring  '  Aves '  of  its  refrain,  which  the  whole  train  was 
chanting  in  chorus.  And  at  last  this  train  of  suffering  and 
faith,  this  moaning,  singing  train,  thus  making  its  entry  into 
Lourdes,  drew  up  in  the  station. 

The  carriage  doors  were  at  once  opened,  the  whole  throng 
of  healthy  pUgrims,  and  of  ailing  ones  able  to  walk,  ahghted, 
and  streamed  over  the  platform.  The  few  gas  lamps  cast  but 
a  feeble  light  on  the  crowd  of  poverty-stricken  beings  clad  in 
faded  garments,  and  encumbered  with  all  sorts  of  parcels, 
baskets,  valises,  and  boxes.  And  amidst  all  the  jostling  of 
this  scared  flock,  which  did  not  know  in  which  direction  to 
turn  to  find  its  way  out  of  the  station,  loud  exclamations  were 
heard,  the  shouts  of  people  calling  relatives  whom  they  had 
lost,  mingled  with  the  embraces  of  others  whom  relatives  or 


friends  ha3  come  to  meet.  One  woman  declared  With  beati- 
fical satisfaction,  '  I  have  slept  well.'  A  priest  went  off  carry- 
ing his  travelling-bag,  after  wishing  a  crippled  lady  '  good 
luck  I '  Most  of  them  bad  the  bewildered,  weary,  yet  joyous 
appearance  of  people  whom  an  excursion  train  sets  down  at 
some  unknown  station.  And  such  became  the  scramble  and 
the  confusion  in  the  darkness,  that  they  did  not  hear  the  rail- 
way employes  who  grew  quite  hoarse  through  shouting 
'  This  way !  this  way  ! '  in  their  eagerness  to  clear  the  plat- 
form as  soon  as  possible. 

Sister  Hyacinthe  had  nimbly  alighted  from  her  compart- 
ment, leaving  the  dead  man  in  the  charge  of  Sister  Claire  des 
Anges ;  and,  losing  her  head  somewhat,  she  ran  off  to  the 
cantine-van  in  the  idea  that  Ferrand  would  be  able  to  help 
her.  Fortunately  she  found  Father  Foureade  in  front  of  the 
van  and  acquainted  him  with  the  fatality  in  a  low  voice.  Re- 
pressing a  gesture  of  annoyance,  he  thereupon  called  Baron 
Suire,  who  was  passing,  and  began  whispering  in  his  ear.  The 
muttering  lasted  for  a  few  seconds  and  then  the  Baron  rushed 
off,  and  clove  his  way  through  the  crowd  with  two  bearers 
carrying  a  covered  litter.  In  this  the  man  was  removed  from 
the  carriage  as  though  he  were  a  patient  who  had  simply 
fainted,  the  mob  of  pilgrims  paying  no  further  attention  to 
him  amidst  all  the  emotion  of  their  arrival.  Preceded  by 
the  Baron,  the  bearers  carried  the  corpse  into  a  goods  office, 
where  they  provisionally  lodged  it  behind  some  barrels  ;  one 
of  them,  a  fair-haired  httle  fellow,  a  general's  son,  remaining 
to  watch  over  it. 

Meanwhile,  after  begging  Ferrand  and  Sister  Saiat- 
Fran9ois  to  go  and  wait  for  her  in  the  courtyard  of  the 
station,  near  the  reserved  vehicle  which  was  to  take  them  to 
the  Hospital  of  Our  Lady  of  Dolours,  Sister  Hyacinthe  re- 
turned to  the  railway-carriage  and  talked  of  helping  her 
patients  to  alight  before  goiag  away.  But  Marie  would  not 
let  her  touch  her.  '  No !  no  ! '  said  the  girl,  '  do  not  trouble 
about  me.  Sister.  I  shall  remain  here  the  last.  My  father 
and  Abb6  Froment  have  gone  to  the  van  to  fetch  the  wheels ; 
I  am  waiting  for  their  return ;  they  know  how  to  fix  them, 
and  they  will  take  me  away  aU  right,  you  may  be  sure 
of  it." 

In  the  same  way  M.  Sabathier  and  Brother  Isidore  did 
not  desire  to  be  moved  until  the  crowd  had  decreased. 
Madame  de  Jonquike,  who  had  taken  charge  of  La  Grivotte, 


also  promised  to  see  to  Madame  Vetu's  removal  in  an  ambu- 
lance vehicle.  And  thereupon  Sister  Hyacinth©  decided  that 
she  would  go  off  at  once  so  as  to  get  everything  ready  at  the 
Hospital.  Moreover,  she  took  with  her  both  little  Sophie 
Couteau  and  Elise  Bouquet,  whose  face  she  very  carefully 
wrapped  up.  Madame  Maze  preceded  them,  whilst  Madame 
Vincent,  carrying  her  little  girl,  who  was  unconscious  and 
quite  white,  struggled  through  the  isrowd,.  possessed  by  the 
fixed  idea  of  running  off  as  soon  as  possible  and  depositing 
the  child  in  the  Grotto  at  the  feet  of  the  Blessed  Virgin. 

The  mob  was  now  pressing  towards  the  doorway  by  which 
passengers  left  the  station,  and  to  facilitate  the  egress  of  all 
these  people  it  at  last  became  necessary  to  open  the  luggage 
gates.  The  employes,  at  a  loss  how  to  take  the  tickets,  held 
out  their  caps,  which  a  downpour  of  the  little  cards 
speedily  filled.  And  in  the  courtyard,  a  large  square  court- 
yard, skirted  on  three  sides  by  the  low  buildings 
of  the  station,  the  most  extraordinary  uproar  prevailed 
amongst  all  the  vehicles  of  divers  kinds  which  were  there 
jumbled  together.  The  hotel  omnibuses,  backed  against  the 
curb  of  the  footway,  displayed  the  most  sacred  names  on  their 
large  boards — Jesus  and  Mary,  St.  Michel,  the  Eosary,  and  the 
Sacred  Heart.  Then  there  were  ambulance  vehicles,  landaus, 
cabriolets,  brakes  and  httle  donkey  carts,  all  entangled 
together,  with  their  drivers  shouting,  swearing,  and  cracking 
their  whips — the  tumult  being  apparently  increased  by  the 
obscurity  in  which  the  lanterns  set  brilliant  patches  of 

Eain  had  fallen  heavily  a  few  hours  previously.  Liquid 
mud  splashed  up  under  the  hoofs  of  the  horses ;  the  foot 
passengers  sank  into  it  to  their  ankles.  M.  Vigneron,  whom 
Madame  Vigneron  and  Madame  Chaise  were  following  in  a 
state  of  distraction,  raised  Gustave,  in  order  to  place  him  in 
the  omnibus  from  the  Hotel  of  the  Apparitions,  after  which 
he  himself  and  the  ladies  climbed  into  the  vehicle.  Madame 
Maze,  shuddering  slightly,  hke  a  delicate  tabby  who  fears  to 
dirty  the  tips  of  her  paws,  made  a  sign  to  the  driver  of  an 
old  brougham,  got  into  it,  and  quickly  drove  away,  after 
giving  as  address  the  Convent  of  the  Blue  Sisters.  And  at 
last  Sister  Hyacinthe  was  able  to  install  herself  with  Elise 
Bouquet  and  Sophie  Couteau  in  a  large  chwr-A-hanGS,  in  which 
Ferrand  and  Sisters  Saint-Fran5ois  and  Claire  des  Anges  were 
already  seated.    The  drivers  whipped  up  their  spirited  little 

112  '  LOURDES 

horses,  and  the  vehicles  went  off  at  a  breakneck  pa6e,  amidst 
the  shouts  of  those  left  behind,  and  the  splashing  of  the 

In  presence  of  that  rushing  torrent,  Madame  Vincent,  vdth 
her  dear  little  burden  in  her  arms,  hesitated  to  cross  over. 
Bursts  of  laughter  rang  out  around  her  every  now  and  then. 
Oh  !  what  a  filthy  mess  !  And  at  sight  of  all  the  mud,  the 
women  caught  up  their  skirts  before  attempting  to  pass 
through  it.  At  last,  when  the  courtyard  had  somewhat 
emptied,  Madame  Vincent  herself  ventured  on  her  way,  all 
terror  lest  the  mire  should  make  her  fall  in  that  black 
darkness.  Then,  on  reaching  a  downhill  road,  she  noticed 
there  a  number  of  women  of  the  locality  who  were  on  the 
watch,  offering  furnished  rooms,  bed  and  board,  according  to 
the  state  of  the  pilgrim's  purse. 

'Which  is  the  way  to  the  Grotto,  madame,  if  you  please  ? ' 
asked  Madame  Vincent,  addressing  one  old  woman  of  the 

Instead  of  answering  the  question,  however,  the  other 
offered  her  a  cheap  room.  '  You  won't  find  anything  in  the 
hotels,'  she  said,  '  they  are  aU  full.  Perhaps  you  wUl  be  able 
to  eat  there,  but  you  certainly  won't  find  a  closet  even  to  sleep 

Eat,  sleep,  indeed !  Had  Madame  Vincent  any  thought 
of  such  things ;  she  who  had  left  Paris  with  thirty  sous  in  her 
pocket,  aU.  that  remained  to  her  after  the  expenses  she  had 
been  put  to  ? 

'  "The  way  to  the  Grotto,  if  you  please,  madame,'  she 

Among  the  women  who  were  thus  touting  for  lodgers,  there 
was  a  tall,  well-built  girl,  dressed  like  a  superior  servant, 
and  looking  very  clean,  with  carefully  tended  hands.  She 
glanced  at  Madame  Vincent  and  slightly  shrugged  her 
shoulders.  And  then,  seeing  a  broad-chested  priest  with  a 
red  face  go  by,  she  rushed  after  him,  offered  him  a  furnished 
room,  and  continued  following  him,  whispering  in  his 

Another  girl,  however,  at  last  took  pity  on  Madame 
Vincent  and  said  to  her :  '  Here,  go  down  this  road,  and 
when  you  get  to  the  bottom,  turn  to  the  right  and  you  will 
reach  the  Grotto.' 

Meanwhile,  the  confusion  inside  the  station  continued. 
The  healthy  pilgrims,  and  those  of  the  sick  who  retained  the 


use  of  their  legs  could  go  off,  thus,  in  some  measure,  clearing 
the  platform ;  but  the  others,  the  more  grievously  stricken 
sufferers  whom  it  was  difficult  to  get  out  of  the  carriages 
and  remove  to  the  hospital,  remained  waiting.  The  bearers 
seemed  to  become  quite  bewildered,  rushing  maclly  hither  and 
thither  with  their  litters  and  vehicles,  not  knowing  at  what 
end  to  set  about  the  profusion  of  work  which  lay  before 

As  Berthaud,  followed  by  G6rard,  went  along  the  platform 
gesticulating,  he  noticed  two  ladies  and  a  girl  who  were 
standing  under  a  gas  jet  and  to  all  appearance  waiting.  In 
the  girl  he  recognised  Eaymonde,  and  with  a  sign  of  the  hand 
he  at  once  stopped  his  companion.  '  Ah !  mademoiselle,' 
said  he,  '  how  pleased  I  am  to  see  you  !  Is  Madame  de  Jon- 
quiere  quite  well  ?  You  have  made  a  good  journey,  I  hope  ? ' 
Then  without  a  pause  he  added :  '  This  is  my  friend, 
MonsieuiJj^rard  de  Peyrelongue.' 

<•■ —  ±taymonde  gazed  fixedly  at  the  young  man  with  her  clear, 
smiling  eyes.  '  Oh !  I  already  have  the  pleasure  of  being 
shghtly  acquainted  with  this  gentleman,'  she  said.  '  We  have 
previously  met  one  another  at  Lourdes.' 

Thereupon  Gerard,  who  thought  that  his  cousin  Berthaud 
was  conducting  matters  too  quickly,  and  was  quite  resolved 
that  he  would  not  enter  into  any  hasty  engagement,  con- 
tented iiimself  with  bowing  in  a  ceremonious  way. 

'  We  are  waiting  for  mamma,'  resumed  Eaymonde.  '  She 
is  extremely  busy ;  she  has  to  see  after  some  pilgrims  who 
are  very  ill.' 

At  this,  little  Madame  D^sagneaux,  with  her  pretty,  light, 
wavy-haired  head,  began  to  say  that  it  served  Madame 
de  Jonquiere  right  for  refusing  her  services.  She  herself 
was  stamping  with  impatience,  eager  to  join  in  the  work 
and  make  herself  useful,  whilst  Madame  Volmar,  silent, 
shrinking  back  as  though  taking  no  interest  in  it  at  all, 
seemed  simply  desirous  of  penetrating  the  darkness,  as  though 
indeed  she  were  seeking  somebody  with  those  magnificent 
eyes  of  hers,  usually  bedimmed,  but  now  shining  out  like 

Just  then,  however,  they  were  all  pushed  back.  Madame 
Dieulafay  was  being  removed  from  her  first-class  compart- 
ment, and  Madame  D^sagneaux  could  not  restrain  an  exclama- 
tion of  pity.     '  Ah !  the  poor  woman  ! ' 

There  conld  in  fact  be  no  more  distressing  sight  than  this 



young  woman,  encompassed  by  lusuiy,  covered  with  lace  in 
her  species  of  cofSn,  so  wasted  that  she  seemed  to  be  a  mere 
human  shred,  deposited  on  that  platform  tUl  it  could  be  taken 
away.  Her  husband  and  her  sister,  both  very  elegant  and  very 
sad,  remained  standing  near  her,  whilst  a  manservant  and 
maid  ran  o£f  with  the  valises  to  ascertain  if  the  carriage  which 
had  been  ordered  by  telegram  was  in  the  courtyard.  Abbe 
Judaine  also  helped  the  sufferer ;  and  when  two  men  at  last 
took  her  up  he  bent  over  her  and  wished  her  au  revoir,  adding 
some  kind  words  which  she  did  not  seem  to  hear.  Then  as 
he  watched  her  removal,  he  resumed,  addressing  himself  to 
Berthaud,  whom  he  knew  :  '  Ah !  the  poor  people,  if  they 
could  only  purchase  their  dear  sufferer's  cure.  I  told  them 
that  prayer  was  the  most  precious  thing  in  the  Blessed 
Virgin's  eyes,  and  I  hope  that  I  have  myself  prayed  fer- 
vently enough  to  obtain  the  compassion  of  Heaven.  Never- 
theless they  have  brought  a  magnificent  gift,  a  golden  lantern 
for  the  Basilica,  a  perfect  marvel,  adorned  with  precious 
stones.  May  the  Immaculate  Virgin  deign  to  smile  upon 
it!'         _ 

In  this  way  a  great  many  offerings  were  brought  by  the 
pilgrims.  Some  huge  bouquets  of  flowers  had  just  gone  by, 
together  with  a  kind  of  triple  crown  of  roses,  mounted  on 
a  wooden  stand.  And  the  old  priest  explained  that  before 
leaving  the  station  he  wished  to  secure  a  banner,  the  gift  of 
the  beautiful  Madame  Jousseur,  Madame  Dieulafay's  sister. 

Madame  de'  Jonquiere  was  at  last  approaching,  however, 
and  on  perceiving  Berthaud  and  Gerard  she  exclaimed :  '  Pray 
do  go  to  that  carriage,  gentlemen — that  one,  there !  We 
want  some  men  very  badly.  There  are  three  or  four  sick 
persons  to  be  taken  out.  I  am  in  despair ;  I  can  do  nothing 

Gerard  ran  off  after  bowing  to  Eaymonde,  whilst  Berthaud 
advised  Madame  de  Jonquiere  to  leave  the  station  VTith  her 
daughter  and  those  ladies  instead  of  remaining  on  the  plat- 
form. Her  presence  was  in  nowise  necessary,  he  said ;  he 
would  undertake  everything,  and  within  three-quarters  of  an 
hour  she  would  find  her  patients  in  her  ward  at  the  hospital. 
She  ended  by  giving  way,  and  took  a  conveyance  in  company 
with  Eaymonde  and  Madame  D^sagneaus.  As  for  Madame 
Volmar,  she  had  at  the  last  moment  disappeared,  as  though 
seized  with  a  sudden  fit  of  impatience.  The  others  fancied 
that  they  had  seen  her  approach  a  strange  gentleman  with 


the  object  no  doubt  of  making  some  inquiry  of  him.  However, 
they  would  of  course  find  her  at  the  hospital, 

Berthaud  joined  GIrard  again  just  as  the  young  man, 
assisted  by  two  fellow-bearers,  was  endeavouring  to  remove 
M.  Sabathier  from  the  carriage.  It  was  a  difficult  task,  for 
he  was  very  stout  and  very  heavy,  and  they  began  to  think 
that  he  would  never  pass  through  the  doorway  Of  the  com- 
partment. However,  as  he  had  been  got  in  they  ought  to 
be  able  to  get  him  out ;  and  indeed  when  two  other  bearers 
had  entered  the  carriage  from  the  other  side,  they  were  at 
last  able  to  deposit  him  on  the  platform. 

The  dawn  was  now  appearing,  a  faint  pale  dawn;  and 
the  platform  presented  the  woeful  appearance  of  an  improvised 
ambulance.  La  Grivotte,  who  had  lost  consciousness,  lay  there 
on  a  mattress  pending  her  removal  in  a  litter ;  whilst  Madame 
Vetu  had  been  seated  against  a  lamp-post,  suffering  so  severely 
from  another  attack  of  her  ailment  that  they  scaijcely  dared 
to  touch  her.  Some  hospitallers,  whose  hands  were  gloved, 
were  with  difficulty  wheehng  their  little  vehicles  in  which 
were  poor,  sordid  looking  women  with  old  baskets  at  their 
feet.  Others,  with  stretchers  on  which  lay  the  stiffened, 
woeful  bodies  of  silent  sufferers,  whose  eyes  gleamed  with 
"anguish,  found  themselves  unable  to  pass  ;  but  some  of  the 
infirm  pilgrims,  some  unfortunate  cripples,  contrived  to  slip 
through  the  ranks,  among  them  a  young  priest  who  was  lame, 
and  a  little  humpbacked  boy,  one  of  whose  legs  had  been 
amputated,  and  who,  looking  like  a  gnome,  managed  to  drag 
himself  with  his  crutches  fi:om  group  to  group.  Then  there 
was  quite  a  block  aroimd  a  man  who  was  bent  in  half,  twisted 
by  paralysis  to  such  a  point  that  he  had  to  be  carried  on  a 
chair  with  his  head  and  feet  hanging  downward.  It  seemed 
as  though  hours  would  be  required  to  clear  the  platform. 

The  dismay  therefore  reached  a  climax  when  the  station- 
master  suddenly  rushed  up  shouting :  '  The  Bayonne  express 
is  signalled.  Make  haste!  make  haste!  You  have  only 
three  minutes  left  I ' 

Father  Fourcade,  who  had  remained  in  the  midst  of  the 
the  more  stricken,  of  the  sufferers,  beckoned  to  Berthaud  and 
said  to  him  :  '  Finish  taking  them  out  of  the  train  ;  you  will 
be  able  to  clear  the  platform  afterwards  ! ' 

The  advice  was  very  sensible,  and  in  accordance  with  it 
they  finished  placing  the  sufferers  on  the  platform.     In 



Madame  de  Jonqui^re's  carriage  Marie  now  alone  remained, 
waiting  patiently.  M.  de  Guersaint  and  Pierre  had  at  last 
returned  to  her,  bringing  the  two  pairs  of  wheels  by  means  of 
which  the  box  in  which  she  lay  was  rolled  about.  And  with 
Gerard's  assistance  Pierre  in  all  haste  removed  the  girl  from 
the  train.  She  was  as  light  as  a  poor  shivering  bird,  and  it 
was  only  the  box  that  gave  them  any  trouble.  However,  they 
soon  placed  it  on  the  wheels  and  made  the  latter  fast,  and 
then  Pierre  might  have  rolled  Marie  away  had  it  not  been  for 
the  crowd  which  hampered  him. 

'  Make  haste !  make  haste ! '  furiously  repeated  the  station- 

He  himself  lent  a  hand,  taking  hold  of  a  sick  man  by  the 
feet  in  order  that  he  might  more  speedily  be  got  out  of  a 
compartment.  And  he  also  pushed  the  little  hand-carts  back, 
so  as  to  clear  the  edge  of  the  platform.  In  a  second-class 
•carriage,  however,  there  stiU  remained  one  woman  who  had 
just  been  overpowered  by  a  terrible  nervous  attack.  She  was 
howling  and  struggling,  and  it  was  impossible  to  think  of 
touching  her  at  that  moment.  But  on  the  other  hand  the 
express,  signalled  by  the  incessant  tinkling  of  the  electric  bells, 
was  now  fast  approaching,  and  they  had  to  close  the  door 
and  in  all  haste  shunt  the  train  to  the  siding  where  it  would 
remain  for  three  days,  until  in  fact  it  was  required  to  convey 
its  load  of  sick  and  healthy  passengers  back  to  Paris.  As  it 
went  off  to  the  siding  the  crowd  stiU  heard  the  cries  of  the 
suffering  woman,  whom  it  had  been  necessary  to  leave  in  it, 
in  the  charge  of  a  Sister,  cries  which  grew  weaker  and  weaker 
like  those  of  a  strengthless  ehUd,  whom  one  at  last  succeeds 
in  consoling. 

'  Good  Lord  1 '  muttered  the  station-master ;  '  it  was  high 
time ! ' 

In  fact  the  Bayonne  express  was  now  coming  along  at 
full  speed,  and  the  next  moment  it  rushed  hke  a  crash  of 
thunder  past  that  woeful  platform  httered  with  all  the 
grievous  wretchedness  of  a  hospital  hastily  evacuated.  The 
litters  and  little  hand-carts  were  shaken,  but  there  was  no 
accident,  for  the  porters  were  on  the  watch,  and  pushed  from 
the  line  the  bewildered  flock  which  was  still  jostling  and 
struggling  in  its  eagerness  to  get  away.  As  soon  as  the 
express  had  passed,  however,  circulation  was  re-established, 
and  the  bearers  were  at  last  able  to  complete  the  removal  of 
the  aiok  with  prudent  deliberation. 


Little  by  little  the  daylight  was  increasing — a  clear  dawn 
it  was,  whitening  the  heavens  whose  reflection  illumined  the 
earth  which  was  still  black.  You  began  to  distinguish 
things  and  people  clearly. 

'  Oh,  by-and-by ! '  Marie  repeated  to  Pierre,  as  he  en- 
deavoured to  roll  her  away.  '  Let  Us  wait  till  some  part  of 
the  crowd  has  gone.' 

Then,  looking  around,  she  began  to  feel  interested  in  a  man 
of  military  bearing,  apparently  some  sixty  years  of  age,  who 
was  walking  about  among  the  sick  pilgrims.  With  a  square- 
shaped  head  and  white  bushy  hair,  he  would  still  have 
looked  sturdy  if  he  had  not  dragged  his  left  foot,  throwing  it 
inward  at  each  step  he  took.  With  the  left  hand,  too,  he  leant 
heavily  on  a  thick  walking-stick.  When  M.  Sabathier,  who 
had  visited  Lourdes  for  six  years  past,  perceived  him  he 
became  quite  gay.    '  Ah ! '  said  he, '  it  is  you.  Commander ! ' 

Commander  was  perhaps  the  old  man's  name.  But  as 
he  was  decorated  with  a  broad  red  riband,  he  was  possibly 
called  Commander  on  account  of  his  decoration,  albeit  the 
latter  was  that  of  a  mere  chevalier.  Nobody  exactly  knew  his 
story.  No  doubt  he  had  relatives  and  children  of  his  own 
somewhere,  but  these  matters  remained  vague  and  mysterious. 
For  the  last  three  years  he  had  been  employed  at  the  railway- 
station  as  a  superintendent  in  the  goods  department,  a  simple 
occupation,  a  Mttle  berth  which  had  been  given  him  by  favour 
and  which  enabled  him  to  live  in  perfect  happiness.  A  first 
stroke  of  apoplexy  at  fifty-five  years  of  age  had  been  followed 
by  a  second  one  three  years  later,  which  had  left  him  slightly 
paralysed  in  the  left  side.  And  now  he  wa,s  awaitiug  the 
third  stroke  with  an  air  of  perfect  tranquiUity.  As  he 
himself  put  it,  he  was  atHihe  disposal  of  death,  which  might 
come  for  him  that  night,  the  next  day,  or  possibly  that  very 
moment.  All  Lourdes  knew  him  on  account  of  the  habit,  the 
mania  he  had,  at  pilgrimage  time,  of  coming  to  witness  the 
arrival  of  the  trains,  dragging  his  foot  along  and  leaning  upon 
his  stick,  whilst  expressing  his  astonishment  and  reproaching 
the  ailing  ones  for  their  intense  desire  to  be  made  whole  and 
sound  again. 

This  was  the  third  year  that  he  had  seen  M.  Sabathier 
arrive,  and  all  his  anger  fell  upon  him.  '  What  1  you  have 
come  back  aqain ! '  he  exclaimed.  '  Well,  you  must  be  desirous 
of  living  this  hateful  life  I    But  sacrebleu  I  go  and  die  quietly 


in  your  bed  at  home.  Isn't  that  the  best  thing  that  can 
happen  to  anyone  ? ' 

M.  Babathier  evinced  no  anger,  but  laughed,  exhausted 
though  he  was  by  the  handling  to  which  he  had  been  sub- 
jected during  his  removal  from  the  carriage.  '  No,  no,'  said 
he, '  I  prefer  to  be  cured.' 

'  To  be  cured,  to  be  cured.  That's  what  they  all  ask  for. 
They  travel  hundreds  of  leagues  and  arrive  in  fragments, 
howUng  with  pain,  and  all  this  to  be  cured — to  go  through 
every  worry  and  every  suffering  again.  Come,  monsieur,  you 
would  be  nicely  caught  if,  at  your  age  and  with  your  dilapi- 
dated old  body,  your  Blessed  Virgin  should  be  pleased  to  re- 
store the  use  of  your  legs  to  you.  What  would  you  do  with 
them,  man  Dieu  ?  What  pleasure  would  you  find  in  pro- 
longing the  abomination  of  old  age  for  a  few  years' more? 
It's  much  better  to  die  at  once,  while  you  are  like  that  I 
Death  is  happiness ! ' 

He  spoke  in  this  fashion,  not  as  a  believer  who  aspires  to 
the  delicious  reward  of  eternal  life,  but  as  a  weary  man  who 
expects  to  fall  into  nihility,  to  enjoy  the  great  everlasting 
peace  of  being  no  more. 

Whilst  M.  Sabathier  was  gaily  shrugging  his  shoulders  as 
though  he  had  a  child  to  deal  with,  Abb6  Judaine,  who  had 
at  last  secured  his  banner,  came  by  and  stopped  for  a  moment 
in  order  that  he  might  gently  scold  the  Commander,  with 
whom  he  also  was  well  acquainted. 

'Don't  blaspheme,  my  dear  friend,'  he  said.  'It  is  an 
offence  against  God  to  refuse  life  and  to  treat  health  with  eon- 
tempt.  If  you  yourself  had  hstened  to  me,  you  would  have 
asked  the  Blessed  Virgin  to  cure  your  leg  before  now.' 

At  this  the  Commander  became  angry.  '  My  leg !  The 
Virgin  can  do  nothing  to  it !  I'm  quite  at  my  ease.  May 
death  come  and  may  it  all  be  over  for  ever  !  When  the  time 
comes  to  die  you  turn  your  face  to  the  wall  and  you  die — it's 
simple  enough.' 

The  old  priest  interrupted  him,  however.  Pointing  to 
Marie,  who  was  lying  on  her  box  listening  to  them,  he  ex- 
claimed :  '  You  tell  all  our  sick  to  go  home  and  die — even 
mademoiselle,  eh  ?  She  who  is  full  of  youiii  and  wishes  to 

Marie's  eyes  were  wide  open,  burning  with  the  ardent 
desire  which  she  felt  to  be,  to  enjoy  her  share  of  the  vast 
world;  and  the  Commander,  who  had  drawn  near,  gazed 


upon  her,  suddenly  seized  with  deep  emotion  which  made  his 
voice  tremhle.  '  If  mademoiselle  gets  well,'  he  said,  '  I  will 
wish  her  another  miracle,  that  she  be  happy.' 

Then  he  went  off,  dragging  his  foot  and  tapping  the  flag- 
stones with  the  ferrule  of  his  stout  stick  as  he  continued 
wending  his  way,  hke  an  angry  philosopher,  among  the  suf- 
fering pilgrims. 

Little  by  little,  the  platform  was  at  last  cleared.  Madame 
Vetu  and  La  Grivotte  were  carried  away,  and  Gerard  removed 
M.  Sabathier  in  a  httle  cart,  whilst  Baron  Suire  and  Ber- 
thaud  abeady  began  giving  orders  for  the  green  train,  which 
would  be  the  next  one  to  arrive.  Of  all  the  ailing  pilgrims 
the  only  one  now  remaining  at  the  station  was  Marie,  of  whom 
Pierre  jealously  took  charge.  He  had  already  dragged  her 
into  the  courtyard  when  he  noticed  that  M.  de  Guersaint  had 
disappeared ;  but  a  moment  later  he  perceived  him  convers- 
ing with  the  Abb6  Des  Hermoises,  whose  acquaintance  he  had 
just  made.  Their  admiration  of  the  beauties  of  nature  had 
brought  them  together.  The  daylight  had  now  appeared,  and 
the  surrounding  mountains  displayed  themselves  in  aU  their 

'  What  a  lovely  country,  monsieur ! '  exclaimed  M.  da 
Guersaint.  '  I  have  been  wishing  to  see  the  Cirque  de  Gavar- 
nie  for  thirty  years  past.  But  it  is  some  distance  away  and 
the  trip  must  be  an  expensive  one,  so  that  I  fear  I  shall  not 
be  able  to  make  it.' 

'  You  are  mistaken,  monsieur,'  said  the  Abb^ ;  '  nothing 
is  more  easily  managed.  By  making  up  a  party  the  expense 
becomes  very  slight.  And  as  it  happens,  I  wish  to  return 
there  this  year,  so  that  if  you  would  like  to  join  us ' 

'  Oh,  certainly,  monsieur.  We  will  speak  of  it  again.  A 
thousand  thanks,'  replied  M.  de  Guersaint. 

His  daughter  was  now  calling  him  however,  and  he  joined 
her  after  taking  leave  of  the  Abb6  in  a  very  cordial  manner. 
Pierre  had  decided  that  he  would  drag  Marie  to  the  Hospital 
so  as  to  spare  her  the  pain  of  transference  to  another  vehicle. 
But  as  the  omnibuses,  landaus,  and  other  conveyances  were 
already  coming  back,  again  filling  the  courtyard  in  readiness 
for  the  arrival  of  the  next  train,  the  young  priest  had  some 
difficulty  in  reaching  the  road  with  the  little  chariot  whose 
low  wheels  sank  deeply  in  the  mud.  Some  police  agents 
charged  with  maintaining  order  were  cursing  that  fearful 
mire  which  splashed  their  boots ;  and  indeed  it  was  only  the 

I2q  ■  LOURDES 

touts,  the  young  and  old  wotnen  who  had  rooms  to  let,  who 
laughed  at  the  paddles,  which  they  crossed  and  crossed  again 
in  every  direction,  pursuing  the  last  pilgrims  that  emerged  from 
the  station. 

When  the  little  car  had  begun  to  roll  more  easily  over  the 
sloping  road  Marie  suddenly  inquired  of  M.  de  Guersaint, 
who  was  walking  near  her :  '-What  day  of  the  week  is  it, 
father  ? ' 

'  Saturday,  my  darling.' 

'  Ah  !  yes,  Saturday,  the  day  of  the  Blessed  Virgin.  Is  it 
to-day  that  she  will  cure  me  ?  ' 

Then  she  began  thinking  again ;  while,  at  some  distance 
behind  her,  two  bearers  came  furtively  down  the  road,  with  a 
covered  stretcher  in  which  lay  the  corpse  of  the  man  who 
had  died  iu  the  train.  They  had  gone  to  take  it  from  behind 
the  barrels  in  the  goods  office,  and  were  now  conveyiug  it  to 
a  secret  spot  of  which  Father  Fourcade  had  told  them. 



Built,  so  far  as  it  extends,  by  a  charitable  Canon,  and  left 
uniinished  through  lack  of  money,  the  Hospital  of  Our  Lady 
of  Dolours  is  a  vast  pile,  four  storeys  high,  and  consequently 
far  too  lofty,  since  it  is  difficult  to  carry  the  sufferers  to  the 
topmost  wards.  As  a  rule  the  building  is  occupied  by  a  hun- 
dred infirm  and  aged  paupers ;  but  at  the  season  of  the 
national  pilgrimage  these  old  folks  are  for  three  days  sheltered 
elsewhere,  and  the  hospital  is  let  to  the  Fathers  of  the 
Assumption,  who  at  times  lodge  in  it  as  many  as  five  and  six 
hundred  patients.  StUl,  however  closely  packed  they  may  be, 
the  accommodation  never  suffices,  so  that  the  three  or  four 
hundred  remaining  sufferers  have  to  be  distributed  between 
the  Hospital  of  Salvation  and  the  town  hospital,  the  men  being 
sent  to  the  former  and  the  women  to  the  latter  institution.  " 
That  morning  at  sunrise  great  confusion  prevailed  in  the 
sand-covered  courtyard  of  Our  Lady  of  Dolours,  at  the  door 
of  which  a  couple  of  priests  were  mounting  guard.  The 
temporary  staff,  with  its  formidable  supply  of  registers,  cards, 
and  printed  formulas,  had  installed  itself  in  one  of  the  ground- 


floor  rooms  on  the  previous  day.  The  managers  were  desirous 
of  greatly  improving  upon  the  organisation  of  the  preceding 
year.  The  lower  wards  were  this  time  to  be  reserved  to  the 
most  helpless  sufferers  ;  and  in  order  to  prevent  a  repetition 
of -the  cases  of  mistaken  identity  which  had  occurred  in  the 
past,  very  great  care  was  to  be  taken  in  filling  in  and  dis- 
tributing the  admission  cards,  each  of  which  bore  the  name  of 
a  ward  and  the  number  of  a  bed.  It  became  difficult,  how- 
ever, to  act  in  accordance  with  these  good  intentions  in 
presence  of  the  torrent  of  ailing  beings  which  the  white  train 
had  brought  to  Lourdes,  and  the  new  formalities  so  com- 
plicated matters  that  the  patients  had  to  be  deposited  iu  the 
com:tyard  as  they  arrived,  to  wait  there  until  it  became  possi- 
ble to  admit  them  in  something  like  an  orderly  manner.  It 
was  the  unpacking  of  the  station  over  again,  the  same  woeful 
camping  in  the  open,  whilst  the  bearers  and  the  young 
seminarists  who  acted  as  the  secretary's  assistants  ran  hither 
and  thither  in  bewilderment. 

'  We  have  been  over-ambitious,  we  wanted  to  do  things  too 
well ! '  exclaimed  Baron  Suire  in  despair. 

There  was  much  truth  in  his  remark,  for  never  had  a 
greater  number  of  useless  precautions  been  taken,  and  they 
now  discovered  that,  by  some  iuexpUcable  error,  they  had 
allotted  not  the  lower  but  the  higher  placed  wards  to  the 
patients  whomit  was  most  difficult  to  move.  It  was  impossible 
to  begin  the  classification  afresh,  however,  and  so  as  in  former 
years  things  must  be  allowed  to  take  their  course,  in  a  hap- 
hazard way.  The  distribution  of  the  cards  began,  a  young , 
priest  at  the  same  time  entering  each  patient's  name  and 
address  ia  a  register.  Moreover,  all  the  hospitalisation  cards 
bearing  the  patients'  names  and  numbers  had  to  be  produced, 
so  that  the  names  of  the  wards  and  the  numbers  of  the  beds 
might  be  added  to  them ;  and  aU  these  formalities  greatly  pro- 
tracted the  dijiU. 

Then  there  was  endless  comiag  and  going  from  the  top  to 
the  bottom  of  the  building,  and  from  one  to  the  other  end  of 
each  of  its  four  floors.  M.  Sabathier  was  one  of  the  first  to 
secure  admittance,  being  placed  in  a  ground-floor  room  which 
was  known  as  the  Family  Ward.  Sick  men  were  there 
allowed  to  have  their  wives  with  them ;  but  to  the  other  wards 
of  the  hospital  only  women  were  admitted.  Brother  Isidore, 
it  is  true,  was  accompanied  by  his  sister ;  however,  by  a  spe- 
cial favour  it  was  agreed  that  they  should  be  considered  as 


conjoints,  and  the  missionary  was  accordingly  placed  in  the 
bed  next  to  that  allotted  to  M.  Sabathier.  The  chapel,  still 
littered  with  plaster  and  with  its  unfinished  windows 
boarded  up,  was  close  at  hand.  There  were  also  various 
wards  in  an  unfinished  state ;  still  these  were  fiUed  with  mat- 
tresses, on  which  sufferers  were  rapidly  placed.  All  those  who 
could  walk,  however,  were  already  besieging  the  refectory,  a 
long  gallery  whose  broad  windows  looked  into  an  inner 
courtyard ;  and  the  Saint-Frai  Sisters,  who  managed  the  hos- 
pital at  other  times,  and  had  remained  to  attend  to  the  cook- 
ing, began  to  distribute  bowls  of  coffee  and  chocolate  among 
the  poor  women  whom  the  terrible  journey  had  exhausted. 

'  Best  yourselves  and  try  to  gain  a  little  strength,'  repeated 
Baron  Suire,  who  was  ever  on  the  move,  showing  himself  here, 
there  and  everywhere  in  rapid  succession.  *  You  have  three 
good  hours  before  you,  it  is  not  yet  five,  and  their  reverences 
have  given  orders  that  you  are  not  to  be  taken  to  the  Grotto 
until  eight  o'clock,  so  as  to  avoid  any  excessive  fatigue. 

Meanwhile,  up  above  on  the  second  floor,  Madame  de 
JonquiSre  had  been  one  of  the  first  to  take  possession  of  the 
Sainte-Honorine  Ward  of  which  she  was  the  superintendent. 
She  had  been  obUged  to  leave  her  daughter  Eaymonde  down- 
stairs, for  the  regulations  did  not  allow  young  girls  to  enter 
the  wards  where  they  might  have  witnessed  sights  that  were 
scarcely  proper  or  else  far  too  horrible  for  such  eyes  as  theirs. 
Baymonde  had  therefore  remained  in  the  refectory  as  a  helper, 
but  little  Madame  Ddsagneaux,  in  her  capacity  as  a  lady- 
hospitaller,  had  not  left  the  superintendent,  and  was  already 
asking  her  for  orders  in  her  delight  that  she  should  at  last 
be  able  to  render  some  assistance. 

'  Are  all  these  beds  properly  made,  madame  ? '  she 
inquired ;  '  perhaps  I  had  better  make  them  afresh  with  Sister 

The  ward,  whose  walls  were  painted  a  light  yellow,  and 
whose  few  windows  admitted  but  little  light  from  an  inner 
yard,  contained  fifteen  beds,  standing  in  two  rows  against  the 

'We  will  see  by-and-by,'  replied  Madame  de  Jonquiere 
with  an  absorbed  air.  She  was  busy  counting  the  beds  and 
examining  the  long  narrow  apartment.  And  this  accom- 
plished she  added  in  an  undertone  :  '  I  shall  never  have  room 
enough.  They  say  that  I  must  accommodate  twenty-three 
patients.    We  shall  have  to  put  some  mattresses  down.' 


Sister  Hyacinthe,  who  had  followed  the  ladies  after  leaving 
Bister  Saint-FranQois  and  Sister  Claire  des  Anges  in  a  small 
adjoining  apartment  which  was  being  transformed  into  a  linen 
room,  then  began  to  lift  up  the  coverlets  and  examine  the 
bedding.  And  she  promptly  reassured  Madame  D6sagneaux 
with  regard  to  her  surmises.  '  Oh  1  the  beds  are  properly 
made,'  she  said  ;  '  everything  is  very  clean  too.  One  can  see 
that  the  Saint-Prai  Sisters  have  attended  to  things  themselves. 
The  reserve  mattresses  are  in  the  next  room,  however,  and 
if  madame  will  lend  me  a  hand  we  can  place  some  of  them 
between  the  beds  at  once. 

'  Oh,  certainly ! '  exclaimed  young  Madame  Desagneaux, 
quite  excited  by  the  idea  of  carrying  mattresses  with  her  weak 
slender  arms. 

It  became  necessary  for  Madame  de  JonquiSre  to  calm  her. 
'  By-and-by,'  said  the  lady- superintendent ;  '  there  is  no  hurry. 
Let  us  wait  till  our  patients  arrive.  I  don't  much  like  this 
ward,  it  is  so  difficult  to  air.  Last  year  I  had  the  Sainte- 
Eosalie  Ward  on  the  first  floor.  However,  we  will  organise 
matters,  all  the  same.' 

Some  other  lady-hospitallers  were  now  arriving,  quite  a 
hiveful  of  busy  bees,  all  eager  to  start  on  their  work.  The 
confusion  which  so  often  arose  was,  in  fact,  increased  by  the 
excessive  number  of  nurses,  women  of  the  aristocracy  and 
upper  middle  class,  with  whose  fervent  zeal  some  Httle  vanity 
was  blended.  There  were  more  than  two  hundred  of  them, 
and  as  each  had  to  make  a  donation  on  joining  the  Hospitality 
of  Our  Lady  of  Salvation,  the  managers  did  not  dare  to  refuse 
any  appHcants,  for  fear  lest  they  might  check  the  flow  of 
almsgiving.  Thus  the  number  of  the  lady-hospitallers  in- 
creased year  by  year.  Fortunately  there  were  some  among 
them  who  cared  for  nothing  beyond  the  privilege  of  wearing 
the  red  cloth  cross,  and  who  started  off  on  excursions  as  soon' 
as  they  reached  Lourdes.  Still  it  must  be  acknowledged  that 
those  who  devoted  themselves  were  really  deserving,  for  they 
underwent  five  days  of  avrful  fatigue,  sleeping  scarcely  a 
couple  of  hours  each  night  and  living  in  the  midst  of  the  most 
terrible  and  repugnant  spectacles.  They  witnessed  the  death 
agonies,  dressed  the  pestilential  sores,  cleaned  up,  changed 
linen,  turned  the  sufferers  over  in  their  beds,  went  through  a 
sickening  and  overwhelming  labour  to  which  they  were  in  no 
wise  accustomed.    And  thus  they  emerged  from  it  aching  all 


over,  tired  to  death,  with  feverish  eyes  flaming  with  the  joy  of 
the  charity  which  so  excited  them. 

'  And  Madame  Vohnar  ? '  suddenly  asked  Madame  Des- 
agneaux.    '  I  thought  we  should  find  her  here.' 

This  was  apparently  a  suhjeet  which  Madame  de  Jon- 
quike  did  not  care  to  have  discussed ;  for,  as  though  she 
were  aware  of  the  truth  and  wished  to  bury  it  in  silence,  with 
the  indulgence  of  a  woman  who  compassionates  human 
wretchedness,  she  promptly  retorted  :  '  Madame  Volmar  isn't 
strong,  she  must  have  gone  to  the  hotel  to  rest.  We  must  let 
her  sleep.' 

Then  she  apportioned  the  beds  among  the  ladies  present, 
allotting  two  to  each  of  them ;  and  this  done  they  all  finished 
taking  possession  of  the  place,  hastening  up  and  down  and 
backwards  and  forwards  in  order  to  ascertain  where  the 
ofiices,  the  linen-room,  and  the  kitchens  were  situated, 

'  Aiid  the  dispensary  ?  '  then  asked  one  of  the  ladies. 

But  there  was  no  dispensary.  There  was  no  medical 
staff  even.  What  would  have  been  the  use  of  any  ? — since  the 
patients  were  those  whom  science  had  given  up,  despairing 
creatures  who  had  come  to  beg  of  God  the  cure  which  power- 
less men  were  imable  to  promise  them.  Logically  enough, 
all  treatment  was  suspended  during  the  pilgrimage.  li  a 
patient  seemed  likely  to  die,  extreme  unction  was  administered. 
The  only  medical  man  about  the  place  was  the  young  doctor 
who  had  come  by  the  white  train  with  his  little  medicine 
chest ;  and  his  intervention  was  limited  to  an  endeavour  to 
assuage  the  sufferings  of  those  patients  who  chanced  to  ask 
for  him  during  an  attack. 

As  it  happened,  Sister  Hyacinthe  was  just  bringing 
Ferrand,  whom  Sister  Saint-Fran9ois  had  kept  with  her  in  a 
closet  near  the  linen-room  which  he  proposed  to  make  his 
quarters.  '  Madame,'  said  he  to  Madame  de  Jonquiere,  '  I 
am  entirely  at  your  disposal.  In  case  of  need  you  will  only 
have  to  ring  for  me.' 

She  barely  listened  to  him,  however,  engaged  as  she  was 
in  a  quarrel  with  a  young  priest  belonging  to  the  manage- 
ment with  reference  to  a  deficiency  of  certain  utensUs. 
'  Certainly,  monsieur,  if  we  should  need  a  soothing  draught,' 
she  answered,  and  then,  reverting  to  her  discussion,  she  went 
on :  '  Well,  Monsieur  I'Abbe,  you  must  certainly  get  me  four 
or  five  more.  How  can  we  possibly  manage  with  so  few  ? 
Things  are  bad  enough  as  it  is.' 


Ferrand  looked  and  listened,  quite  bewildered  by  the 
extraordinary  behaviour  of  the  people  amongst  whom  he  had 
been  thrown  by  chance  since  the  previous  day.  He  who  did 
not  believe,  who  was  only  present  out  of  friendship  and 
charity,  was  amazed  at  this  extraordinary  scramble  of  wretch- 
edness and  suffering  rushing  towards  the  hope  of  happiness. 
And,  as  a  medical  man  of  the  new  school,  he  was  altogether 
upset  by  the  careless  neglect  of  precautions,  the  contempt 
which  was  shown  for  the  most  simple  teachings  of  science, 
in  the  certainty  which  was  apparently  felt  that,  if  Heaven 
should  so  will  it,  cure  would  supervene,  sudden  and  resound- 
ing like  a  lie  given  to  the  very  laws  of  nature.  But  if  this 
were  the  case,  what  was  the  use  of  that  last  concession  to 
human  prejudices — why  engage  a  doctor  for  the  j ourney  if  none 
were  wanted  ?  At  this  thought  the  young  man  returned  to 
his  little  room,  experiencing  a  vague  feeling  of  shame  as  he 
realised  that  Ms  pi^esenee  was  useless,  and  even  a  trifle 

'  Get  some  opium  pills  ready  all  the  same;'  said  Sister 
Hyacinthe,  as  she  went  back  with  him  as  far  as  the  Hnen 
room.  '  You  will  be  asked  for  some,  for  I  feel  anxious  about 
some  of  the  patients.' 

While  speaking  she  looked  at  hiin  with  her  large  blue 
eyes,  so  gentle  and  so  kind,  and  ever  lighted  by  a  divine 
smile.  The  constant  exercise  which  she  gave  herself  brought 
the  rosy  flush  of  her  quick  blood  to  her  skin  all  dazzling 
with  youthfulness.  And  like  a  good  friend  who  was  willing 
that  he  should  share  the  work  to  which  she  gave  her  heart, 
she  added :  '  Besides,  if  I  should  need  somebody  to  get  a 
patient  in  or  out  of  bed,  you  wDl  help  me,  won't  you  ? ' 

Thereupon,  at  the  idea  that  he  might  be  of  use  to  her,  he 
was  pleased  that  he  had  come  and  was  there.  In  his  mind's 
eye,  he  again  beheld  her  at  his  bedside,  at  the  time  when  he 
had  so  narrowly  escaped  death,  nursing  him  with  fraternal 
hands,  with  the  smiling,  compassionate  grace  of  a  sexless 
angel,  in  whom  there  was  something  more  than  a  comrade, 
something  of  a  woman  left.  However,  the  thought  never 
occurred  to  him  that  there  was  religion,  belief  behind 

'  Oh !  I  will  help  you  as  much  as  you  like,  Sister,'  he 
replied.  '  I  belong  to  you,  I  shall  be  so  happy  to  serve  you. 
You  know  very  well  what  a  debt  of  gratitude  I  have  to  pay 


In  a  pretty  way  she  raised  her  finger  to  her  lip  so  as  to 
silence  him.  Nobody  owed  her  anything.  She  was  merely 
the  servant  of  the  ailing  and  the  poor. 

At  this  moment  a  first  patient  was  making  her  entry  into 
the  Sainte-Honorine  Ward.  It  was  Marie,  lyingin  her  wooden 
box,  which  Pierre,  with  Gerard's  assistance,  had  just  brought 
upstairs.  The  last  to  start  from  the  railway  station,  she 
had  secured  admission  before  the  others,  thanks  to  the  end- 
less complications  which,  after  keeping  them  all  in  suspense, 
now  freed  them  according  to  the  chance  distribution  of  the 
admission  cards.  M.  de  Guersaint  had  quitted  his  daughter 
at  the  hospital  door  by  her  own  desire ;  for,  fearing  that  the 
hotels  would  be  very  fuU,  she  had  wished  him  to  secure  two 
rooms  for  himself  and  Pierre  at  once.  Then,  on  reaching  the 
ward,  she  felt  so  weary  that,  after  venting  her  chagrin  at  not 
being  immediately  taken  to  the  Grotto,  she  consented  to  be 
laid  on  a  bed  for  a  short  time. 

'  Come,  my  child,'  repeated  Madame  de  JonquiSre,  '  you 
have  three  hours  before  you.  We  will  put  you  to  bed.  It 
will  ease  you  to  take  you  out  of  that  case.' 

Thereupon  the  lady-superintendent  raised  her  by  the 
shoulders,  whilst  Sister  Hyacinthe  held  her  feet.  The  bed 
was  in  the  central  part  of  the  ward,  near  a  window.  For  a 
moment  the  poor  girl  remained  on  it  with  her  eyes  closed,  aa 
though  exhausted  by  being  moved  about  so  much.  Then  it 
became  necessary  that  Pierre  should  be  readmitted,  for  she 
grew  very  fidgety,  saying  that  there  were  things  which  she 
must  explain  to  him. 

'  Pray  don't  go  away,  my  friend,'  she  exclaimed  when  he 
approached  her.  '  Take  the  case  out  on  to  the  landing,  but  stay 
there,  because  I  want  to  be  taken  down  as  soon  as  I  can  get 

'  Do  you  feel  more  comfortable  now  ? '  asked  the  young 

'Yes,  no  doubt^but  I  really  don't  know.  I  so  much 
want  to  be  taken  yonder,  to  the  Blessed  Virgin's  feet.' 

However,  when  Pierre  had  removed  the  ease,  the  successive 
arrivals  of  the  other  patients  suppUed  her  with  some  little 
diversion.  Madame  Vetu,  whom  two  bearers  had  brought 
upstairs,  holding  her  under  the  arms,  was  laid,  fully  dressed, 
on  the  next  bed,  where  she  remained  motionless,  scarcely 
breathing,  with  her  heavy,  yellow,  cancerous  mask.  None 
of  the  patients,  it  should  be  mentioned,  were  divested  of 


their  clothes,  they  were  simply  stretched  out  on  the  beds,  and 
advised  to  go  to  sleep  if  they  could  manage  to  do  so.  Those 
whose  complaiuts  were  less  grievous  contented  themselves 
with  sitting  down  on  their  mattresses,  chatting  together,  and 
putting  the  things  they  had  brought  with  them  in  order. 
For  instance,  Elise  Eouquet,  who  was  also  near  Marie,  on  the 
other  side  of  the  latter's  bed,  opened  her  basket  to  take  a  clean 
fichu  out  of  it,  and  seemed  sorely  annoyed  at  having  no  hand- 
glass with  her.  In  less  than  ten  minutes  all  the  beds  were 
occupied,  so  that  when  La  Grivotte  appeared,  half  carried  by 
Sister  Hyaointhe  and  Sister  Claire  des  Anges,  it  became 
necessary  to  place  some  mattresses  on  the  floor. 

'  Here  1  here  is  one,'  exclaimed  Madame  Dfisagneaux  ; 
'  she  will  be  very  well  here,  out  of  the  draught  from  the 

Seven  other  mattresses  were  soon  added  in  a  line,  occupying 
the  space  between  the  rows  of  beds,  so  that  it  became  difficult 
to  move  about.  One  had  to  be  very  careful,  and  follow 
narrow  pathways  which  had  been  left  between  the  beds  and 
the  mattresses.  Each  of  the  patients  had  retained  possession 
of  her  parcel,  or  box,  or  bag,  and  round  about  the  improvised 
shakedowns  were  piles  of  poor  old  things,  sorry  remnants  of 
garments,  straying  among  the  sheets  and  the  coverlets.  You 
might  have  thought  yourself  in  some  woeful  ambulance, 
hastily  organised  after  some  great  catastrophe,  some  confla- 
gration or  earthquake  which  had  thrown  hundreds  of 
wounded  and  penniless  beings  into  the  streets. 

Madame  de  Jonquiere  made  her  way  from  one  to  the  othar 
end  of  the  ward,  ever  and  ever  repeating, '  Come,  my  children, 
don't  excite  yourselves  ;  try  to  sleep  a  little.' 

However,  she  did  not  succeed  in  calming  them,  and  indeed, 
she  herself,  like  the  other  lady-hospitallers  under  her  orders, 
.  increased  the  general  fever  by  her  own  bewilderment.  The 
linen  of  several  patients  had  to  be  changed,  and  there  were 
other  needs  to  be  attended  to.  One  woman,  suffering  from  an 
ulcer  in  the  leg,  began  moaning  so  dreadfully  that  Madame 
D^sagneaux  undertook  to  dress  her  sore  afresh  ;  but  she  was 
not  skilful,  and  despite  all  her  passionate  courage  she  almost 
fainted,  so  greatly  was  she  distressed  by  the  unbearable 
odour.  Those  patients  who  were  in  better  health  asked  for 
broth,  bowlsful  of  which  began  to  circulate  amidst  the  calls, 
the  answers,  and  the  contradictory  orders  which  nobody 
executed.    And  meanwhile,  let  loose  amidst  this  frightful 


scramble,  little  Sophie  Couteau,  who  remained  with  the 
Sisters,  and  was  very  gay,  imagined  that  it  was  playtime, 
and  ran,  and  jumped,  and  hopped  in  turn,  called  and  petted 
first  by  one  and  then  by  another,  dear  as  she  was  to  all  ahke 
for  the  miraculous  hope  which  she  brought  them. 

However,  amidst  this  agitation,  the  hours  went  by. 
Seven  o'clock  had  just  struck  when  Abb6  Judaine  came  in.  He 
was  the  chaplain  of  the  Sainte-Honorine  Ward,  and  only  the 
difficulty  of  finding  an  unoccupied  altar  at  which  he  might  say 
his  mass  had  delayed  his  arrival.  As  soon  as  he  appeared,  a 
cry  of  impatiinee  arose  from  every  bed. 

'  Oh !  Monsieur  le  Cur6,  let  us  start,  let  us  start  at 
once ! ' 

An  ardent  desire,  which  each  passing  minute  heightened 
and  irritated,  was  upbuoying  them,  like  a  more  and  more 
devouring  thirst,  which  only  the  waters  of  the  miraculous 
fountain  could  appease.  And  more  fervently  than  any  of  the 
others  La  Grivotte,  sitting  up  on  her  mattress,  and  joining  her 
hands,  begged  and  begged  that  she  might  be  taken  to  the 
Grotto.  Was  there  not  a  beginning  of  the  miracle  in  this — 
in  this  awakening  of  her  wiU  power,  this  feverish  desire  for 
cure  which  enabled  her  to  set  herself  erect  ?  Inert  and  faint- 
ing on  her  arrival,  she  was  now  seated,  turning  her  dark 
glances  in  aU  directions,  waiting  and  watching  for  the  happy 
moment  when  she  would  be  removed.  And  colour  also  was 
returning  to  her  Uvid  face.     She  was  already  resuscitating. 

'  Oh  !  Monsieur  le  Cur6,  pray  do  tell  them  to  take  me— I 
feel  that  I  shall  be  cured,'  she  exclaimed. 

With  a  loving,  fatherly  smUe  on  his  good-natured  face, 
Abb6  Judaine  listened  to  them  all,  and  allayed  their  impatience 
with  kind  words.  They  would  soon  set  out ;  but  they  must  be 
reasonable,  and  allow  sufficient  time  for  things  to  be  organised ; 
and  besides,  the  Blessed  Virgin  did  not  like  to  have  violence 
done  her ;  she  bided  her  time,  and  distributed  her  divine 
favours  among  those  who  behaved  themselves  the  best. 

As  he  paused  before  Marie's  bed  and  beheld  her,  stammer- 
ing entreaties  with  joined  hands,  he  again  paused.  '  And  you, 
too,  my  daughter,  you  are  in  a  hurry?'  he  said.  'Be  easy, 
there  is  grace  enough  in  heaven  for  you  all.' 

'  I  am  dying  of  love,  father,'  she  murmured  in  reply. 
'  My  heart  is  so  swollen  with  prayers,  it  stifles  me ' 

He  was  greatly  touched  by  the  passion  of  this  poor 
emaciated  child,  bo  harshly  stricken  in  her  youth  and  beauty, 


and  wishing  to  appease  her,  he  called  her  attention  to  Madame 
Vetu,  who  did  not  move,  though  with  her  eyes  wide  open 
she  stared  at  all  who  passed. 

'  Look  at  madame,  how  quiet  she  is ! '  he  said.  '  She  ia 
meditating,  and  she  does  right  to  place  herself  in  God's  hands, 
like  a  little  child.' 

However,  in  a  scarcely  audible  voice,  a  mere  breath, 
Madame  Vetu  stammered :  '  Oh !  I  am  suffering,  I  am 

At  last,  at  a  quarter  to  eight  o'clock,  Madame  de 
Jonquiere  warned  her  charges  that  they  would  do  well  to  pre- 
pare themselves.  She  herself,  assisted  by  Sister  Hyacinthe 
and  Madame  D^sagneaux,  buttoned  several  dresses,  and  put 
shoes  on  impotent  feet.  It  was  a  real  toilette,  for  they  all 
desired  to  appear  to  the  greatest  advantage  before  the  Blessed 
Virgin.  A  large  number  had  sufficient  sense  of  delicacy  to 
wash  their  hands.  Others  unpacked  their  parcels,  and  put 
on  clean  linen.  On  her  side,  Bhse  Eouquet  had  ended  by 
discovering  aHttle  pocket- glass  in  the  hands  of  a  woman  near 
her,  a  huge,  dropsical  creature,  who  was  very  coquettish ; 
and  having  borrowed  it,  she  leant  it  against  the  bolster, 
and  then,  with  infinite  care,  began  to  fasten  her  fichu 
as  elegantly  as  possible  about  her  head,  in  order  to  hide  her 
distorted  features.  Meanwhile,  erect  in  front  of  her,  little 
Sophie  watched  her  with  an  air  of  profound  interest. 

It  was  Abbd  Judaine  who  gave  the  signal  for  starting  on 
the  journey  to  the  Grotto.  He  wished,  he  said,  to  accompany 
his  dear  suffering  daughters  thither,  whilst  the  lady-hos- 
pitaUers  and  the  Sisters  remained  in  the  ward,  so  as  to  put 
things  in  some  little  order  again.  Then  the  ward  was  at  once 
emptied,  the  patients  being  carried  downstairs  amidst  renewed 
tuinult.  And  Pierre  having  replaced  Marie's  box  upon  its 
wheels,  took  the  first  place  in  the  cortige  which  was  formed 
of  a  score  of  little  hand-carts,  bath-chairs  and  litters. 
The  other  wards,  however,  were  also  emptying,  the  courtyard 
became  crowded,  and  the  difiU  was  organised  in  haphazard 
fashion.  There  was  soon  an  interminable  train,  descending 
the  rather  steep  slope  of  the  Avenue  de  la  Grotte,  so  that 
Pierre  was  already  reaching  the  Plateau  de  la  Merlasse  when 
the  last  stretchers  were  barely  leaving  the  precincts  of  the 

It  was  eight  o'clock,  and  the  sun,  already  high,  a 
triumphant  August  sun,  was  flaming  in  the  great  sky,  which 


was  beautifully  clear.  It  seemed  as  if  the  blue  of  the  atmo- 
sphere, cleansed  by  the  storm  of  the  previous  night,  were  quite 
new,  fresh  with  youth.  And  the  frightful  difiU,  a  perfect 
'  Cour  des  Miracles  '  of  human  woe,  rolled  along  the  sloping 
pavement  amid  all  the  brilliancy  of  that  radiant  morning. 
There  was  no  end  to  the  train  of  abominations,  it  appeared  to 
grow  longer  and  longer.  No  order  was  observed,  ailments  of 
all  kinds  were  jumbled  together ;  it  seemed  like  the  clearing 
of  some  inferno  where  the  most  monstrous  maladies,  the 
rare  and  awful  cases  which  provoke  a  shudder,  had  been 
gathered  together.  Eczema,  roseola,  elephantiasis  presented 
a  long  array  of  doleful  victims.  Well-nigh  vanished  diseases 
reappeared ;  one  old  woman  was  affected  with  leprosy, 
another  was  covered  with  impetiginous  lichen  like  a  tree 
which  has  rotted  in  the  shade.  Then  came  the  dropsical 
ones,  inflated  Uke  wine-skins;  and  beside  some  stretchers 
dangled  hands  twisted  by  rheumatism,  while  from  others 
protruded  feet  swollen  by  oedema  beyond  all  recognition, 
looking,  in  fact,  like  bags  stuffed  full  of  rags.  One  woman, 
suffering  from  hydrocephalus,  sat  in  a  little  cart,  the  dolorous 
motions  of  her  head  bespeaking  her  grievous  malady.  A  tall 
girl  afflicted  with  chorea — St.  Vitus's  dance — was  dancing 
with  every  limb,  without  a  pause,  the  left  side  of  her  faco 
being  continually  distorted  by  sudden,  convulsive  grimaces. 
A  younger  one,  who  followed,  gave  vent  to  a  bark,  a  kind  of 
plaintive  animal  cry,  eaqh  time  that  the  tic  douloureux  which 
was  torturing  her  twisted  her  mouth  and  her  right  cheek, 
which  she  seemed  to  throw  forward.  Next  came  the  con- 
sumptives, trembUng  with  fever,  exhausted  by  dysentery, 
wasted  to  skeletons,  with  livid  skins,  recalling  the  colour  of 
that  earth  in  which  they  would  soon  be  laid  to  rest ;  and 
there  was  one  among  them  who  was  quite  white,  with  flaming 
eyes,  who  looked  indeed  like  a  death's  head  in  which  a  torch 
had  been  lighted.  Then  every  deformity  of  the  contractions 
followed  in  succession — twisted  trunks,  twisted  arms,  necks 
askew,  all  the  distortions  of  poor  creatures  whom  nature  had 
warped  and  broken ;  and  among  these  was  one  whose 
right  hand  was  thrust  back  behind  her  ribs  whilst  her  head 
fell  to  the  left  resting  fixedly  upon  her  shoulder.  Afterwards 
came  some  poor  rachitic  girls  displaying  waxen  complexions 
and  slender  necks  eaten  away  by  sores,  and  yellow-faced 
women  in  the  painful  stupor  which  falls  on  those  whose 
bosoms  are  devoured  by  cancers ;  whilst  others,  lying  down 


with  their  mournful  eyes  gazing  heavenwards,  seemed  to  be 
listening  to  the  throbs  of  the  tumours  which  obstructed  their 
organs.  And  still  more  and  more  went  by  ;  there  was  always 
something  more  frightful  to  come,  this  woman  following  that 
other  one  increased  the  general  shudder  of  horror.  From  the 
neck  of  a  girl  of  twenty  who  had  a  crushed,  flattened  head 
like  a  toad's,  there  hung  so  huge  a  goitre  that  it  fell  even  to 
her  waist  like  the  bib  of  an  apron.  A  bhnd  woman  walked 
along,  her  head  erect,  her  face  pale  like  marble,  displaying  the 
acute  inflammation  of  her  poor  ulcerated  eyes.  An  aged 
woman  stricken  with  imbecility,  afflicted  with  dreadful  facial 
disfigurements,  laughed  aloud  with  a  terrifying  laugh.  And 
all  at  once  an  epileptic  was  seized  with  convulsions,  and 
began  foaming  on  her  stretcher,  without,  however,  causing 
any  stoppage  of  the  procession,  which  never  slackened  its 
march,  lashed  onward  as  it  was  by  the  blizzard  of  feverish 
passion  which  impelled  it  towards  the  Grotto. 

The  bearers,  the  priests,  and  the  ailing  ones  themselves 
had  just  intonated  a  canticle,  the  song  of  Bernadette,  and  all 
rolled  along  amid  the  besetting  '  Aves,'  so  that  the  little  carts, 
the  litters,  and  the  pedestrians  descended  the  sloping  road 
like  a  swollen  and  overflowing  torrent  of  roaring  water.  At 
the  corner  of  the  Bue  Saint- Joseph,  near  the  Plateau  de  la 
Merlasse,  a  family  of  excursionists,  who  had  come  from 
Cauterets  or  Eagn^res,  stood  at  the  edge  of  the  footway  over- 
come with  profound  astonishment.  These  people  were 
evidently  well-to-do  bourgeois,  the  father  and  mother  very 
correct  in  appearance  and  demeanour,  while  their  two  big 
girls,  attired  in  light-coloured  dresses,  had  the  smihng  faces  of 
happy  creatures  who  are  amusing  themselves.  But  their  first 
feeling  of  surprise  was  soon  followed  by  terror,  a  growing 
terror,  as  if  they  here  beheld  the  opening  of  some  pesthouse  of 
ancient  times,  some  hospital  of  the  legendary  ages,  evacuated 
after  a  great  epidemic.  The  two  girls  at  last  became  quite 
pale,  while  the  father  and  the  mother  felt  icy  cold  in  presence 
of  that  endless  d&fiU  of  so  many  horrors,  the  pestilential 
emanations  of  which  were  blown  full  in  their  faces.  0  God  I 
to  think  that  such  hideousness,  such  filth,  such  suffering, 
should  exist!  Was  it  possible — under  that  magnificently 
radiant  sun,  under  those  broad  heavens  so  full  of  light  and 
joy,  whither  the  freshness  of  the  Gave's  waters  ascended,  and 
the  breeze  of  morning  wafted  the  pure  perfumes  of  the 
mountains  1 

E  2 


When  Pierre,  at  the  head  of  the  ccrUgA,  reached  the 
Plateau  de  la  Merlasse,  he  found  himself  immersed  in  that 
clear  sunlight,  that  fresh  and  balmy  air.  He  turned,  round 
and  smiled  affectionately  at  Marie ;  and  as  they  came  out  on 
the  Place  du  Eosaire  in  the  morning  splendour,  they  were 
both  enchanted  with  the  lovely  panorama  which  spread  around 

In  front,  on  the  east,  was  Old  Lourdes,  lying  in  a  broad 
fold  of  the  ground  beyond  a  rock.  The  sun  was  rising  behind 
the  distant  mountains,  and  its  oblique  rays  clearly  outlined  the 
dark  lilac  mass  of  that  solitary  rock,  which  was  crowned  by 
the  tower  and  crumbling  walls  of  the  ancient  castle,  once  the 
redoubtable  key  of  the  seven  valleys.  Through  the  dancing, 
golden  dust  you  discerned  little  of  the  ruined  pile  except  some 
stately  outlines,  some  huge  blocks  of  building  which  looked 
as  though  reared  by  Cyclopean  hands ;  and  beyond  the  rock 
you  but  vaguely  distinguished  the  discoloured,  intermingled 
house  roofs  of  the  old  town.  Nearer  in  than  the  castle, 
however,  the  new  town — the  rich  and  noisy  city  which  had 
sprung  up  in  a  few  years  as  though  by  miracle — spread  out 
on  either  hand,  displaying  its  hotels,  its  stylish  shops,  its 
lodging-houses  all  with  snow  white  fronts  smiling  amidst 
patches  of  greenery.  Then  there  was  the  Gave  flowing  along 
at  the  base  of  the  rock,  rolling  clamorous,  clear  v?aters,  now 
blue  and  now  green,  now  deep  as  they  passed  under  the  old 
bridge,  and  now  leaping  as  they  careered  under  the  new  one, 
which  the  Fathers  of  the  Immaculate  Conception  had  built 
in  order  to  connect  the  Grotto  with  the  railway  station  and 
the  recently  opened  Boulevard.  And  as  a  background  to  this 
delightful  picture,  this  fresh  water,  this  greenery,  this  gay, 
scattered,  rejuvenated  town,  the  little  and  the  big  Gers  arose, 
two  huge  ridges  of  bare  rock  and  low  herbage,  which,  in  the 
projected  shade  that  bathed  them,  assumed  delicate  tints  of 
pale  mauve  and  green,  fading  softly  into  pink. 

Then,  upon  the  norths  on  the  right  bank  of  the  Gave, 
beyond  the  hills  followed  by  the  railway  line,  the  heights  of 
Le  Buala  ascended,  their  wooded  slopes  radiant  in  the 
morning  light.  On  that  side  lay  Bartres.  More  to  the  left 
arose  the  Serre  de  Julos,  dominated  by  the  Miramont. 
Other  crests,  far  off,  faded  away  into  the  ether.  And  in  the 
foreground,  rising  in  tiers  among  the  grassy  valleys  beyond 
the  Gave,  a  number  of  convents,  which  seemed  to  have  sprung 
up  in  this  region  of  prodigies  like  early  vegetation,  imparted 


Bome  measure  of  life  to  the  landscape.  First,  there  was  an 
Orphan  Asylum  founded  by  the  Sisters  of  Nevers,  whose  vast 
buildings  shone  brightly  in  the  sunlight.  Next  came  the 
Carmelite  convent,  on  the  highway  to  Pau,  just  in  front  of  the 
Grotto ;  and  then  that  of  the  Assumptionists  higher  up, 
skirting  the  road  to  Poueyferre ;  whilst  the  Dominicans 
showed  but  a  corner  of  their  roofs,  sequestered  in  the  far- 
away solitude.  And  at  last  appeared  the  establishment  of 
the  Sisters  of  the  Immaculate  Conception,  those  who  were 
called  the  Blue  Sisters,  and  who  had  founded  at  the  far- 
end  of  the  valley  a  home  where  they  received  well-to-do  lady 
pilgrims,  desirous  of  solitude,  as  boarders. 

At  that  early  hour  aU  the  bells  of  these  convents  were 
pealing  joyfully  in  the  crystalline  atmosphere,  whilst  ijie 
bells  of  other  convents,  on  the  other,  the  southern  horizon, 
answered  them  with  the  same  silvery  strains  of  joy.  The  bell 
of  the  nunnery  of  Saint  Clarissa,  near  the  old  bridge,  rang  a 
scale  of  gay,  clear  notes,  which  one  might  have  fancied  to  be 
the  chirruping  of  a  bird.  And  on  this  side  of  the  town,  also, 
there  were  valleys  that  dipped  down  between  the  ridges,  and 
mountains  that  upreared  their  bare  sides,  a  commingling  of 
smiling  and  of  agitated  nature,  an  endless  surging  of  heights 
amongst  which  you  noticed  those  of  Visens,  whose  slopes  the 
sunlight  tinged  ornately  with  soft  blue  and  carmine  of  a 
rippling,  moire-like  effect. 

However,  when  Marie  and  Pierre  turned  their  eyes  to  the 
west,  they  were  quite  dazzled.  The  sun  rays  were  here  stream- 
ing on  the  large  and  the  little  Beout  with  their  cupolas  of 
unequal  height.  And  on  this  side  the  background  was  one  of 
gold  and  purple,  a  dazzling  mountain  on  whose  sides  one  could 
only  discern  the  road  which  snaked  between  the  trees  on  its 
way  to  the  Calvary  above.  And  here,  too,  against  the  sunlit 
background,  radiant  like  an  aureola,  stood  out  the  three 
superposed  churches  which  at  the  voice  of  Bemadette  had 
sprung  from  the  rock  to  the  glory  of  the  Blessed  Virgin. 
First  of  all,  down  below,  came  the  church  of  the  Eosary, 
squat,  circular,  and  half  cut  out  of  the  rock,  at  the  further  end 
of  an  esplanade  on  either  side  of  which,  like  two  huge  arms, 
were  colossal  gradient  ways,  ascending  gently  to  the  Crypt 
Church.  Vast  labour  had  been  expended  here,  a  quarryful 
of  stones  had  been  cut  and  set  in  position,  there  were  arches 
as  lofty  as  naves  supporting  the  gigantic  terraced  avenues 
which  had  been  constructed  so  as  to  allow  the  processions  to 


roll  along  in  all  their  pomp,  and  the  little  conveyances  con- 
taining sick  children  to  ascend  without  hindrance  to  the  divine 
presence.  Then  came  the  Crypt,  the  subterranean  church 
■within  the  rock,  with  only  its  low  door  visible  above  the 
church  of  the  Eosary,  whose  paved  roof,  with  its  vast  prome- 
,nade,  formed  a  continuation  of  the  terraced  inclines.  And  at 
last,  from  the  summit  sprang  the  Basilica,  somewhat  slender 
and  frail,  recaUing  some  finely  chased  jewel  of  the  Renas- 
cence, and  looking  very  new  and  very  white — like  a  prayer,  a 
spotless  dove,  soaring  aloft  from  the  rocks  of  Massabielle.  The 
spire,  which  appeared  the  more  delicate  and  slight  when  com- 
pared with  the  gigantic  inclines  below,  seemed  like  the  little 
vertical  flame  of  a  taper  set  in  the  midst  of  the  vast  landscape, 
those  endless  waves  of  valleys  and  mountains.  By  the  side, 
too,  of  the  dense  greenery  of  the  Calvary  hill,  it  looked  fragile 
and  candid,  like  childish  faith ;  and  at  sight  of  it  you  instinc- 
tively thought  of  the  httle  white  arm,  the  little  thin  hand  of 
the  puny  girl,  who  had  here  pointed  to  Heaven  in  the  crisis 
of  her  human  sufferings.  You  could  not  see  the  Grotto,  the 
entrance  of  which  was  on  the  left,  at  the  base  of  the  rock. 
Beyond  the  Basihca,  the  only  buildings  which  caught  the  eye 
were  the  heavy  square  pile  where  the  Fathers  of  the  Immacu- 
late Conception  had  their  abode,  and  the  episcopal  palace, 
standing  much  farther  away,  in  a  spreading,  wooded  valley. 
And  the  three  churches  were  flaming  in  the  morning 
glow,  and  the  rain  of  gold  scattered  by  the  sun  rays  was 
sweeping  the  whole  countryside,  whilst  the  flying  peals 
of  the  bells  seemed  to  be  the  very  vibration  of  the  light, 
the  musical  awakening  of  the  lovely  day  that  was  now  be- 

Whilst  crossing  the  Place  du  Eosaire,  Pierre  and  Marie 
glanced  at  the  Esplanade,  the  pubUc  walk  with  its  long  cen- 
tral lawn  skirted  by  broad  parallel  paths  and  extending  as  far 
as  the  new  bridge.  Here,  with  face  turned  towards  the 
Basihca,  was  the  great  crowned  statue  of  the  Virgin.  All  the 
sufferers  crossed  themselves  as  they  went  by.  And  still 
passionately  chanting  its  canticle,  the  fearful  cortege  rolled  on, 
through  nature  in  festive  array.  Under  the  dazzling  sky,  past 
the  mountains  of  gold  and  purple,  amidst  the  centenarian 
trees,  symbohcal  of  health,  the  running  waters  whose  fresh- 
ness was  eternal,  that  cortige  still  and  ever  marched  on  with 
its  sufferers,  whom  nature,  if  not  God,  had  condemned,  those 
who  were  afiSicted  with  skin  diseases,  those  whose  flesh  waa 


eaten  away,  those  who  were  dropsical  and  inflated  like  wine- 
skins, and  those  whom  rheumatism  and  paralysis  had  twisted 
into  postures  of  agony.  And  the  victims  of  hydrocephalus 
followed,  with  the  dancers  of  St.  Vitus,  the  consumptives,  the 
rickety,  the  epileptics,  the  cancerous,  the  goitrous,  the  blind, 
the  mad,  and  the  idiotic.  '  Ave,  ave,  ave,  Maria  ! '  they  sang ; 
and  the  stubborn  plaint  acquired  increased  volume,  as  nearer 
and  nearer  to  the  Grotto  it  bore  that  abominable  torrent  of 
human  wretchedness  and  pain,  amidst  aU  the  fright  and 
horror  of  the  passers-by,  who  stopped  short,  unable  to  stir, 
their  hearts  frozen  as  this  nightmare  swept  before  their 

Pierre  and  Marie  were  the  first  to  pass  under  the  lofty 
arcade  of  one  of  the  terraced  inclines.  And  then,  as  they 
followed  the  quay  of  the  Gave,  they  all  at  once  came  upon  the 
Grotto.  And  Marie,  whom  Pierre  wheeled  as  near  to  the 
railing  as  possible,  was  only  able  to  raise  herself  in  her  little 
conveyance,  and  murmur  :  '  0  most  Blessed  Virgin,  Virgin 
most  loved ! ' 

She  had  seen  neither  the  entrances  to  the  piscinas  nor  the 
twelve-piped  fountain,  which  she  had  just  passed ;  nor  did 
she  distinguish  any  better  the  shop  on  her  left  hand  where 
crucifixes,  chaplets,  statuettes,  pictures,  and  other  religious 
articles  were  sold,  or  the  stone  pulpit  on  her  right  which 
Father  Massias  already  occupied.  Her  eyes  were  dazzled 
by  the  splendour  of  the  Grotto ;  it  seemed  to  her  as  if  a  hun- 
dred thousand  tapers  were  burning  there  behind  the  railing, 
filling  the  low  entrance  with  the  glow  of  a  furnace  and  illumi- 
nating, as  with  star  rays,  the  statue  of  the  Virgin,  which 
stood,  higher  up,  at  the  edge  of  a  narrow  ogive-like  cavity. 
And  for  her,  apart  from  that  glorious  apparition,  nothing 
existed  there,  neither  the  crutches  with  which  a  part  of  the 
vault  had  been  covered,  nor  the  piles  of  bouquets  fading  away 
amidst  the  ivy  and  the  eglantine,  nor  even  the  altar  placed 
in  the  centre  near  a  little  portable  organ  over  which  a  cover 
had  been  thrown.  However,  as  she  raised  her  eyes  above  the 
rook,, she  once  more  beheld  the  slender  white  Basilica  pro- 
filed against  the  sky,  its  slight,  tapering  spire  soaring  into  the 
azure  of  the  Infinite  like  a  prayer. 

'  0  Virgin  most  powerful — Queen  of  the  Virgins — Holy 
Virgin  of  Virgins  1  * 

Pierre  had  now  succeeded  in  wheeling  Marie's  box  to  the 
front  rank,  beyond  the  numerous  oak  benches  which  were  set 


out  here  in  the  open  air  as  in  the  nave  of  a  church.  Nearly 
all  these  benches  were  already  occupied  by  those  sufferers 
^yho  could  sit  down,  while  the  vacant  spaces  were  soon  fiUed 
with  litters  and  little  vehicles  whose  wheels  became  entangled 
together,  and  on  whose  close-packed  mattresses  and  pillows  all 
sorts  of  diseases  were  gathered  peU-mell.  Immediately  on 
arriving,  the  young  priest  had  recognised  the  Vignerons 
seated  with  their  sorry  child  Gustavo  in  the  middle  of  a  bench, 
and  now,  on  the  flagstones,  he  caught  sight  of  the  lace- 
trimmed  bed  of  Madame  Dieulafay,  beside  whom  her  husband 
and  sister  knelt  in  prayer.  Moreover,  all  the  patients  of 
Madame  de  Jonqui^re's  carriage  took  up  position  here — M. 
Sabathier  and  Brother  Isidore  side  by  side,  Madame  Vetu 
reclining  hopelessly  in  a  conveyance,  Ehse  Bouquet  seated. 
La  Grivotte  excited  and  raising  herself  on  her  clenched 
hands.  Pierre  also  again  perceived  Madame  Maze,  standing 
somewhat  apart  from  the  others,  and  humbling  herselfJn 
prayer ;  whilst  Madame  Vincent,  who  had  fallen  on  her  knees, 
still  holding  her  httle  Eose  in  her  arms,  presented  the  child 
to  the  Virgin  with  ardent  entreaty,  the  distracted  gesture  of 
a  mother  soliciting  compassion  from  the  mother  of  divine 
grace.  And  around  this  reserved  space  was  the  ever- 
growing throng  of  pilgrims,  the  pressing,  jostling  mob 
which  gradually  stretched  to  the  parapet  overlooking  the 
Gave.  ^^ 

'  0  Virgin  most  merciful,'  continued  Marie  in  an  under- 
tone, '  Virgin  most  faithful,  Virgin  conceived  without 
sin ! ' 

Then,  almost  fainting,  she  spoke  no  more,  but  with  her 
lips  still  moving,  as  though  in  silent  prayer,  gazed  distractedly 
at  Pierre.  He  thought  that  she  veished  to  speak  to  liim  and 
leant  forward :  '  Shall  I  remain  here  at  your  disposal  to  take 
you  to  the  piscina  by-and-by  ?  '  he  asked. 

But  as  soon  as  she  understood  him  she  shook  her  head. 
And  then  in  a  feverish  way  she  said :  '  No,  no,  I  don't  want  to 
be  bathed  this  morning.  It  seems  to  me  that  one  must  be 
truly  worthy,  truly  pure,  truly  holy  before  seeking  the 
miracle !  I  want  to  spend  the  whole  morning  in  imploring  it 
with  joined  hands ;  I  want  to  pray,  to  pray  with  all  my  strength 
and  all  nvj  soul—'  She  was  stifling,  and  paused.  Then 
she  added :  '  Don't  come  to  take  me  back  to  the  Hospital 
till  eleven  o'clock.  I  will  not  let  them  ta^e  me  from  here  tiU 


However,  Pien'e  did  not  go  away,  but  remained  near  her. 
For  a  moment,  he  even  fell  upon  Ms  knees ;  he  also  would 
have  liked  to  pray  with  the  same  burning  faith,  to  beg  of 
God  the  cure  of  that  poor  sick  child,  whom  he  loved  with  such 
fraternal  affection.  But  since  he  had  reached  the  Grotto  he 
had  felt  a  singular  sensation  invading  him,  a  covert  revolt,  as  ^ 
it  were,  which  hampered  the  pious  flight  of  his  prayer.  He 
wished  to  believe ;  he  had  spent  the  whole  night  hoping  that 
belief  would  once  more  blossom  in  his  soul,  like  some  lovely 
flower  of  ignorance  and  candour,  as  soon  as  he  should  have 
knelt  upon  the  soil  of  that  land  of  miracle.  And  yet  he  only 
experienced  discomfort  and  anxiety  in  presence  of  the'-7 
theatrical  scene  before  him,  that  pale  stiff  statue  in  the  false 
light  of  the  tapers,  with  the  chaplet  shop  fuU  of  jostling 
customers  on  the  one  hand,  and  the  large  stone  pulpit  whence 
a  Father  of  the  Assumption  was  shouting  '  Aves  '  on  the  other. 
Had  his  soul  become  utterly  withered  then  ?  Could  no  divine 
dew  again  impregnate  it  with  innocence,  render  it  like  the 
souls  of  little  children,  who  at  the  slightest  caressing  touch  of 
the  sacred  legend  give  themselves  to  it  entirely  ? 

Then,  while  his  thoughts  were  still  wandering,  he  recog- 
nised Father  Massias  in  the  ecclesiastic  who  occupied  the  pulpit.  "- 
He  had  formerly  known  him,  and  was  quite  stirred  by  his 
sombre  ardour,  by  the  sight  of  his  thin  face  and  sparkling 
eyes,  by  the  eloquence  which  poured  from  his  large  mouth 
as  he  offered  violence  to  Heaven  to  compel  it  to  descend  upon 
earth.  And  whilst  he  thus  examined  Father  Massias, 
astonished  at  feeling  himself  so  unlike  the  preacher,  he  _ 
caught  sight  of  Father  Fourcade,  who,  at  the  foot  of  the 
pulpit,  was  deep  in  conference  with  Baron  Suire.  The  latter 
seemed  much  perplexed  by  something  which  Father  Fourcade 
said  to  him ;  however  he  ended  by  approving  it  with  a 
complaisant  nod.  Then,  as  Abbe  Judaine  was  also  standing  ' 
there.  Father  Fourcade  likewise  spoke  to  him  for  a  moment, 
and  a  scared  expression  came  over  the  Abba's  broad  fatherly 
face  while  he  listened ;  nevertheless,  hke  the  Baron,  he  at  last 
bowed  assent. 

Then,  all  at  once.  Father  Fourcade  appeared  in  the  pulpit, 
erect,  drawing  up  his  lofty  figure  which  his  attack  of  gout 
had  slightly  bent ;  and  he  had  not  wished  that  Father  Massias, 
his  weU-loved  brother  whom  he  preferred  above  all  others, 
should  altogether  go  down  the  narrow  stairway,  for  he  had  kept 
him  upon  one  of  the  steps,  and  was  leaining  on  his  shoulder. 


And,  in  a  full,  grave  voice,  -with  an  air  of  sovereign  authority 
which  caused  perfect  silence  to  reign  around,  he  spoke  as 
follows : 

'  My  dear  Brethren,  my  dear  Sisters,  I  ask  your  forgiveness 
for  interrupting  your  prayers,  but  I  have  a  communication  to 
make  to  you,  and  I  have  to  ask  the  help  of  aU  your  faithful 
Bouls.  We  had  a  very  sad  accident  to  deplore  this  morning, 
one  of  our  brethren  died  in  one  of  the  trains  by  which  you 
came  to  Lourdes,  died  just  as  he  was  about  to  set  foot  in  the 
promised  land.' 

A  brief  pause  followed  and  Father  Fourcade  seemed  to 
become  yet  taller,  his  handsome  face  beaming  with  fervour, 
amidst  his  long,  streaming  royal  beard. 

'  Well,  my  dear  Brethren,  my  dear  Sisters,'  he  resumed, 
'in  spite  of  everything,  the  idea  has  come  to  me  that  we 
ought  not  to  despair.  Who  knows  if  God  Almighty  did  not 
will  that  death  in  order  that  He  might  prove  His  Omni- 
potence to  the  world  ?  It  is  as  though  a  voice  were  speaking 
to  me,  urging  me  to  ascend  this  pulpit  and  ask  your  prayers 
for  this  man,  this  man  who  is  no  more,  but  whose  life  is 
nevertheless  in  the  hands  of  the  most  Blessed  Virgin  who 
can  still  implore  her  Divine  Son  in  his  favour.  Yes,  the  man 
is  here,  I  have  caused  his  body  to  be  brought  hither,  and  it 
depends  on  you  perhaps  whether  a  brilliant  miracle  shall 
dazzle  the  universe,  if  you  pray  with  sufficient  ardour  to  touch 
the  compassion  of  Heaven.  We  will  plunge  the  man's  body 
into  the  piscina  and  we  will  entreat  the  Lord,  the  master  of 
the  world,  to  resuscitate  him,  to  give  unto  us  this  extra- 
ordinary sign  of  His  sovereign  beneficence  I ' 

An  icy  thriU,  wafted  from  the  Invisible,  passed  through 
the  listeners.  They  had  all  become  pale,  and  though  tho 
lips  of  none  of  them  had  opened,  it  seemed  as  if  a  mur- 
mur sped  through  their  ranks  amidst  a  shudder. 

'  But  with  what  ardour  must  we  not  pray  1 '  violently 
resumed  Father  Fourcade,  exalted  by  genuine  faith.  '  It  is 
your  souls,  your  whole  souls,  that  I  ask  of  you,  my  dear 
brothers,  my  dear  sisters,  it  is  a  prayer  in  which  you  must 
put  your  hearts,  your  blood,  your  very  life  with  whatever  may 
be  most  noble  and  loving  in  it !  Pray  with  all  your  strength, 
pray  till  you  no  longer  know  who  you  are,  or  where  you  are ; 
pray  as  one  loves,  pray  as  one  dies,  for  that  which  we  are 
about  to  ask  is  so  precious,  so  rare,  so  astounding  a  grace 
that  only  the  energy  of  our  worship  can  induce  God  to 


answer  us.  And  in  order  that  our  prayers  may  be  the  more 
efficacious,  in  order  that  they  may  have  time  to  spread  and 
ascend  to  the  feet  of  the  Eternal  Father,  we  will  not  lower 
the  body  into  the  piscina  until  four  o'clock  this  afternoon. 
And  now  my  dear  Brethren,  now  my  dear  Sisters,  pray,  pray 
to  the  most  Blessed  Virgin,  the  Queen  of  the  Angels,  the 
Comforter  of  the  Afflicted ! ' 

Then  he  himself,  distracted  by  emotion,  resumed  the 
recital  of  the  rosary,  whilst  near  him  Father  Massias  burst 
into  sobs.  And  thereupon  the  great  anxious  silence  was 
broken,  contagion  seized  upon  the  throng,  it  was  transported 
and  gave  vent  to  shouts,  tears,  and  confused  stammered 
entreaties.  It  was  as  though  a  breath  of  delirium  were 
sweeping  by,  reducing  men's  wills  to  naught,  and  turning  all 
these  beings  into  one  being,  exasperated  with  love  and  seized 
with  a  mad  desire  for  the  impossible  prodigy. 

And  for  a  moment  Pierre  had  thought  that  the  ground 
was  giving  way  beneath  him,  that  he  was  about  to  fall  and 
faint.  But  with  difficulty  he  managed  to  rise  from  bia  knees 
and  slowly  walked  away. 



As  Pierre  went  off,  ill  at  ease,  mastered  by  inyincible  re- 
pugnance, unwilling  to  remain  there  any  longer,  he  caught 
sight  of  M.  de  Guersaint,  kneeling  near  the  Grotto,  with  the 
absorbed  air  of  one  who  is  praying  with  his  whole  soul.  The 
young  priest  had  not  seen  him  since  the  morning,  and  did  not 
know  whether  he  had  managed  to  secure  a  couple  of  rooms  in 
one  or  other  of  the  hotels,  so  that  his  first  impulse  was  to 
go  and  join  him.  -Then,  however,  he  hesitated,  unwilling  to 
disturb  his  meditations,  for  he  was  doubtless  praying  for  his 
daughter  whom  he  fondly  loved,  in  spite  of  the  constant  absent- 
mindedness  of  his  volatile  brain.  Accordingly  the  young  priest 
passed  on,  and  took  his  way  under  the  trees.  Nihe  o'clock 
was  now  striking,  he  had  a  couple  of  hours  before  him. 

By  dint  of  money,  the  wild  bank  where  swine  had  formerly 
pastured  had  been  transformed  into  a  superb  avenue  skirting 
the  Gave.    It  had  been  necessary  to  put  back  the  river's  bed 


in  order  to  gain  ground,  and  lay  out  a  monumental  quay 
bordered  by  a  broad  footway,  and  protected  by  a  parapet. 
Some  two  or  three  himdred  yards  further  on,  a  hill  brought 
the  avenue  to  an  end,  and  it  thus  resembled  an  enclosed  pro- 
menade, provided  with  benches,  and  shaded  by  magnificent 
trees.  Nobody  passed  along,  however;  merely  the  overflow 
of  the  crowd  had  settled  there,  and  soUtary  spots  still 
abounded  between  the  grassy  wall  Hmiting  the  promenade 
on  the  south,  and  the  extensive  fields  spreading  out  north- 
ward beyond  the  Gave,  as  far  as  the  wooded  slopes  which  the 
white-walled  convents  brightened.  Under  the  fohage,  on  the 
margin  of  the  running  water,  one  could  enjoy  delightful  fresh- 
ness, even  during  the  burning  days  of  August. 

Thus  Pierre,  like  a  man  at  last  awakening  from  a  painful 
dream,  soon  found  rest  of  mind  again.  He  had  questioned 
himself  in  the  acute  anxiety  which  he  felt  with  regard  to  his 
sensations.  Had  he  not  reached  Lourdes  that  morning  pos- 
sessed by  a  genuine  desire  to  beheve,  an  idea  that  he  was 
'  indeed  again  beginning  to  believe  even  as  he  had  done  in  the 
docile  days  of  childhood  when  his  mother  had  made  him  join 
his  hands,  and  taught  him  to  fear  God  ?  Yet  as  soon  as  he 
had  found  himself  at  the  Grotto,  the  idolatry  of  the  worship, 
the  violence  of  the  display  of  faith,  the  onslaught  upon  human 
reason,  had  so  disturbed  him  that  he  had  almost  fainted. 
What  would  become  of  him  then  ?  Could  he  not  even  try  to 
contend  against  his  doubts  by  examining  things  and  convinc- 
ing himself  of  their  truth,  thus  turning  his  journey  to  profit  ? 
At  all  events,  he  had  made  a  bad  beginning,  which  left  him 
sorely  agitated,  and  he  indeed  needed  the  environment  of. 
those  fine  trees,  that  limpid,  rushing  water,  that  calm,  cool 
avenue,  to  recover  from  the  shock. 

Still  pondering,  he  was  approaching  the  end  of  the  path 
way,  when  he  most  unexpectedly  met  a  forgotten  friend.  He 
had,  for  a  few  seconds,  been  looking  at  a  tall  old  gentleman 
who  was  coming  towards  him,  dressed  in  a  tightly-buttoned 
frock-coat  and  broad-brimmed  hat ;  and  he  had  tried  to 
remember  where  it  was  that  he  had  previously  beheld  that 
pale  face,  with  eagle  nose,  and  black  and  penetrating  eyes. 
These  he  had  seen  before,  he  felt  sure  of  it ;  but  the  prome- 
uader's  long  white  beard  and  long  curly  white  hair  perplexed 
him.  _  However,  the  other  halted,  also  looking  extremely 
astonished,  though  he  promptly  exclaimed,  '  What,  Pierre  ? 
Ib  it  you,  at  Lourdes  ? ' 


Then  all  at  once  the  young  priest  recognised  Doctor 
Chassaigne,  his  father's  old  friend,  his  own  friend,  the  man 
who  had  cured  and  consoled  him  in  the  terrible  physical  and 
mental  crisis  which  had  come  upon  him  after  his  mother's 

'  Ah  !  my  dear  doctor,  how  pleased  I  am  to  see  you  1 '  he 

They  embraced  with  deep  emotion.  And  now,  in  presence 
of  that  snowy  hair  and  snowy  beard,  that  slow  walk,  that 
sorrowful  demeanour,  Pierre  remembered  with  what  unrelent- 
ing ferocity  misfortune  had  fallen  on  that  unhappy  man  and 
aged  him.  But  a  few  years  had  gone  by,  and  now,  when  they 
met  again,  he  was  bowed  down  by  destiny. 

'  You  did  not  know,  I  suppose,  that  I  had  remained  at 
Lourdes  ? '  said  the  doctor.  '  It's  true  that  I  no  longer  write 
to  anybody  ;  in  fact,  I  am  no  longer  among  the  living.  I  Uve 
in  the  land  of  the  dead.'  Tears  were  gathering  in  his  eyes, 
and  emotion  made  his  voice  falter  as  he  resumed  :  '  There  ! 
come  arid  sit  down  on  that  bench  yonder  ;  it  will  please  me  to 
live  the  old  days  afresh  with  you,  just  for  a  moment.' 

In  his  turn  the  young  priest  felt  his  sobs  choking  him. 
He  could  only  murmur, '  Ah !  my  dear  doctor,  my  old  friend, 
I  can  truly  teU  you  that  I  pitied  you  with  my  whole  heart,  my 
whole  soul.' 

Doctor  Chassaigne's  story  was  one  of  disaster,  the  ship- 
wreck of  a  life.  He  and  his  daughter  Marguerite,  a  tall  and 
lovable  girl  of  twenty,  had  gone  to  Cauterets  with  Madame 
Chassaigne,  the  model  wife  and  mother,  whose  state  of  health 
had  made  them  somewhat  anxious.  A  fortnight  had  gone  by, 
and  she  seemed  much  better,  and  was  already  planning  several 
pleasure  trips,  when  one  morning  she  was  found  dead  in  her 
bed.  Her  husband  and  daughter  were  overwhelmed,  stupefied 
by  this  sudden  blow,  this  cruel  treachery  of  death.  The 
doctor,  who  belonged  to  Bartres,  had  a  family  vault  in  the 
^Lourdes  cemetery,  a  vault  constructed  at  his  own  expense, 
and  in  which  his  father  and  mother  already  rested.  Ho 
desired,  therefore,  that  his  wife  should  be  interred  there,  in  a 
compartment  adjoining  that  in  which  he  expected  soon  to  lie 
himself.  And  after  the  burial  he  had  Hngered  for  a  week  at 
Lourdes,  when  Marguerite,  who  was  with  him,  was  seized 
with  a  great  shivering,  and,  taking  to  her  bed  one  evening, 
died  two  days  afterwards  without  her  distracted  father  being 
Able  to  form  any  exact  notion  of  the  illness  which  had  carried 


her  off.  And  thus  it  was  not  himself,  but  his  daughter, 
lately  radiant  with  beauty  and  health,  in  the  very  flower  of 
her  youth,  who  was  laid  in  the  vacant  compartment  by  the 
mother's  side.  The  man  who  had  been  so  happy,  so  wor- 
shipped by  his  two  helpmates,  whose  heart  had  been  kept 
so  warm  by  the  love  of  two  dear  creatures  all  his  own,  was 
now  nothing  more  than  an  old,  miserable,  stammering,  lost 
being,  who  shivered  in  his  icy  soUtude.  All  the  joy  of  his 
life  had  departed ;  he  envied  the  men  who  broke  stones  upon 
the  highways  when  he  saw  their  barefooted  wives  and 
daughters  bring  them  their  dinners  at  noontide.  And  he  had 
refused  to  leave  Lourdes,  he  had  relinquished  everything,  his 
studies,  his  practice  in  Paris,  in  order  that  he  might  live  near 
the  tomb  in  which  his  wife  and  his  daughter  slept  the  eternal 

'  Ah,  my  old  friend,'  repeated  Pierre, '  how  I  pitied  you ! 
How  frightful  must  havebeen  your  grief !  But  why  did  you 
not  rely  a  little  on  those  who  love  you  ?  Why  did  you  shut 
yourself  up  here  with  your  sorrow  ? ' 

The  doctor  made  a  gesture  which  embraced  the  horizon. 
'  I  could  not  go  away,  they  are  here  and  keep  me  with  them. 
It  is  all  over,  I  am  merely  waiting  till  my  time  comes  to  join 
them  again.' 

Then  silence  fell.  Birds  were  fluttering  among  the  shrubs 
on  the  bank  behind  them,  and  in  front  they  heard  the  loud 
murmur  of  the  Gave.  The  sun  rays  were  falling  more  heavily 
in  a  slow,  golden  dust,  upon  the  hillsides  ;  but  on  that  retired 
bench  under  the  beautiful  trees,  the  coolness  was  still  delight-, 
ful.  And  although  the  crowd  was  but  a  couple  of  hundred 
yards  distant,  they  were,  so  to  say, in  a  desert,  for  nobody  tore, 
himself  away  from  the  Grotto  to  stray  as  far  as  the  spot  which 
they  had  chosen. 

They  talked  together  for  a  long  time,  and  Pierre  related 
under  what  circumstances  he  had  reached  Lourdes  that  morn- 
ing with  M.  de  Guersaint  and  his  daughter,  aU  three  forming 
part  of  the  national  pilgrimage.  Then  all  at  once  he  gave  a 
start  of  astonishment  and  exclaimed  :  '  What  I  doctor,  so  you 
now  believe  that  miracles  are  possible  ?  You,  good  heavens  \ 
whom  I  knew  as  an  unbeUever,  or  at  least  as  one  altogether 
indifferent  to  these  matters  ? ' 

He  was  gazing  at  M.  Chassaigne  quite  stupefied  by  some- 
thing which  he  had  just  heard  him  say  of  the  Grotto  and 
Bernadette,    It  was  amazing,  coming  from  a  man  with  so 


strong  a  mind,  a  savant  of  such  inteliigence,  ■wlioss  powerful 
analytical  faculties  he  had  formerly  so  much  admired !  How 
was  it  that  a  lofty  clear  mind,  nourished  by  experience  and 
method,  had  become  so  changed  as  to  acknowledge  the 
miraculous  cures  effected  by  that  divine  fountain  which  the 
Blessed  Virgin  had  caused  to  spurt  forth  under  the  pressure 
of  a  child's  fingers  ? 

'  But  just  think  a  little,  my  dear  doctor,'  he  resumed.  '  It 
was  you  yourself  who  supplied  my  father  with  memoranda 
about  Bernadette,  your  little  feUow- villager  as  you  used  to  call 
her ;  and  it  was  you,  too,  who  spoke  to  me  at  such  length 
about  heT:,  when,  later  on,  I  took  a  momentary  interest  in  her 
story.  In  yoiir  eyes  she  was  simply  an  ailing  child,  prone  to 
hallucinations,  infantile,  but  half-conscious  of  her  acts,  deficient 
of  will  power.  Recollect  our  chats  together,  my  doubts,  and 
the  healthy  reason  which  you  again  enabled  me  to  acquire ! ' 

Pierre  was  feeling  very  moved,  for  was  not  this  the 
strangest  of  adventures  ?  He  a  priest,  who  had  formerly 
resigned  himself  to  endeavour  to  believe,  had  ended  by  com- 
pletely losing  all  faith  through  intercourse  with  this  same 
doctor,  who  was  then  an  unbeliever,  but  whom  he  now  found 
converted,  conquered  by  the  supernatural,  whilst  he  himself 
was  racked  by  the  torture  of  no  longer  believing. 

'  You  who  would  only  rely  on  accurate  facts,'  he  said, '  you 
who  based  everything  on  observation  I  Do  you  renounce 
science  then  ? ' 

Chassaigne,  hitherto  quiet,  with  a  sorrowful  smile  playing 
on  his  lips,  now  made  a  violent  gesture  expressive  of  sovereign 
contempt.  '  Science  indeed ! '  he  exclaimed.  '  Do  I  know 
anything  ?  Can  I  accomplish  anything  ?  You  asked  me 
just  now  what  malady  it  was  that  killed  my  poor  Marguerite. 
But  I  do  not  know !  I,  whom  people  think  so  learned,  so  well 
armed  against  death,  I  understood  nothing  of  it,  and  I  could 
do  nothing — not  even  prolong  my  daughter's  life  for  a  single 
hour !  And  my  wife,  whom  I  found  in  bed  already  cold,  when 
on  the  previous  evening  she  had  lain  down  in  much  better 
health  and  quite  gay — was  I  even  capable  of  foreseeing  what 
ought  to  have  been  done  in  her  case  ?  No,  no !  for  me  at  all 
events,  science  has  become  bankrupt.  I  wish  to  know  nothing, 
I  am  but  a  fool  and  a  poor  old  man  ! ' 

He  spoke  like  this  in  a  furious  revolt  against  all  his  past 
life  of  pride  and  happiness.  Then,  having  become  calm  again, 
he  added ;   '  And  now  I  only  feel  a  frightful  remorse.    Yes,  a 


remorse  wliioh  haunts  me,  which  ever  brings  me  here,  prowl- 
ing around  the  people  who  are  praying.  It  is  remorse  for  not 
having  in  the  first  instance  come  and  humbled  myself  at  that 
Grotto,  bringing  my  two  dear  ones  with  me.  They  would 
have  knelt  there  Uke  those  women  whom  you  see,  I  should 
have  knelt  beside  them,  and  perhaps  the  Blessed  Virgin  would 
have  cured  and  preserved  them.  But,  fool  that  I  was,  I  only 
knew  how  to  lose  them  !     It  is  my  fault.' 

Tears  were  now  streaming  from  his  eyes.  '  I  remember,' 
he  continued,  '  that  in  my  childhood  at  Bartr^s,  my  mother,  a 
peasant  woman,  made  me  join  my  hands  and  implore  God's 
help  each  morning.  The  prayer  she  taught  me  came  back  to 
my  mind,  word  for  word,  when  I  again  found  myself  alone,  as 
weak,  as  lost  as  a  little  child.  What  would  you  have,  my 
friend  ?  I  joined  my  hands  as  in  my  younger  days,  I  felt  too 
wretched,  too  forsaken,  I  had  too  keen  a  need  of  a  superhuman 
help,  of  a  divine  power  which  should  think  and  determine 
for  me,  which  should  lull  me  and  carry  me  on  with  its  eter- 
nal prescience.  How  great  at  first  was  the  confusion,  the 
aberration  of  my  poor  brain,  under  the  frightful,  heavy  blow 
which  fell  upon  it !  I  spent  a  score  of  nights  vnthout  being 
able  to  sleep,  thinking  that  I  should  surely  go  mad.  All  sorts  of 
ideas  warred  within  me ;  I  passed  through  periods  of  revolt  when 
I  shook  my  fist  at  Heaven,  and  then  I  lapsed  into  humility,  en- 
treating God  to  take  me  in  my  turn.  Aid  it  was  at  last  a  con- 
viction that  there  must  be  justice,  a  conviction  that  there  must 
be  love,  which  calmed  me  by  restoring  me  my  faith.  You  knew 
my  daughter,  so  tall  and  strong,  so  beautiful,  so  brimful  of 
life.  "Would  it  not  be  the  most  monstrous  injustice  if  for  her, 
who  had  not  known  life,  there  were  nothing  beyond  the  tomb  ? 
She  will  live  again,  I  am  ahsolutely  convinced  of  it,  for  I  still 
hear  her  at  times,  she  tells  me  that  we  shall  meet,  that  we 
shall  see  one  another  again.  Oh !  the  dear  beings  whom  one 
has  lost,  my  dear  daughter,  my  dear  wife,  to  see  them  once 
more,  to  live  with  them  elsewhere,  that  is  the  one  hope,  the 
one  consolation  for  all  the  sorrows  of  this  world !  I  have 
given  myself  to  God,  since  God  alone  can  restore  them  to 

He  was  shaking  with  a  slight  tremor,  like  the  weak  old 
man  he  had  become ;  and  Pierre  was  at  last  able  to  understand 
and  explain  the  conversion  of  this  savant,  this  man  of  intellect 
who,  growing  old,  had  reverted  to  belief  under  the  influence 
of  sentiment.    First  of  all,  and  this  he  had  not  previously 


Buspected,  he  discovered  a  kind  of  atavism  of  faith  in  this 
Pyrenean,  this  son  of  peasant  mountaineers,  who  had  been 
brought  up  in  beUef  of  the  legend,  and  vrhom  the  legend  had 
again  mastered  even  when  fifty  years  of  positive  study  had 
rolled  over  it.  Then,  too,  there  was  human  weariness ;  this 
man,  to  whom  science  had  not  broi^ht  happiness,  revolted 
against  science  on  the  day  when  it  seemed  to  him  shallow, 
powerless  to  prevent  him  from  shedding  tears.  And  finally 
there  was  discouragement,  a  doubt  of  all  things  ending  in  a 
need  of  certainty  on  the  part  cf  this  old  man  whom  age  had 
softened,  and  who  felt  happy  at  being  able  to  fall  asleep  in 

Pierre  did  not  protest,  however ;  he  did  not  jeer,  for  his 
heart  was  rent  at  sight  of  this  stricken  sexagenarian,  with  hia 
woeful  senility.  Is  it  not  indeed  pitiful  to  see  the  strongest, 
the  clearest-minded  become  mere  children  again  under  such 
blows  of  fate  ?  '  Ah ! '  he  faintly  sighed,  '  if  I  could  Only 
suffer  enough  to  be  able  to  silence  my  reason,  and  kneel 
yonder  and  believe  in  all  those  fine  stories.' 

The  pale  smile,  which  at  times  still  passed  over  Doctor 
Chassaigne's  lips,  reappeared  on  them.  'You  mean  the 
miracles  ?  '  said  he.  '  You  are  a  priest,  my  child,  and  I  know 
what  your  misfortune  is.  The  miracles  seem  impossible  to 
you.  But  what  do  you  know  of  them?  Admit  that  you 
know  nothing,  and  that  what  to  our  senses  seems  impossible  is 
every  minute  taking  place.  And  now  we  have  been  talking 
together  for  a  long  time,  and  eleven  o'clock  will  soon  strike,  so 
that  you  must  return  to  the  Grotto.  However,  I  shall  expect 
you  at  half-past  three,  when  I  will  take  you  to  the  medical 
verification  office,  where  I  hope  I  shall  be  able  to  show  you 
some  surprising  things.    Don't  forget,  at  half-past  three.' 

Thereupon  he  sent  him  off,  and  remained  on  the  bench 
alone.  The  heat  had  yet  increased,  and  the  distant  hills  were 
burning  in  the  furnace-like  glow  of  the  sun.  However,  he 
lingered  there  forgetfully,  dreaming  in  the  greeny  half-light 
amidst  the  fohage,  and  hstening  to  the  continuous  murmur  of 
the  Gave,  as  if  a  voice,  a  dear  voice  fromihe  realms  beyond, 
were  speaking  to  him. 

Pierre  meantime  hastened  back  to  Marie.  He  was  able  to 
join  her  without  much  difficulty,  for  the  crowd  was  thinning, 
a  good  many  people  having  already  gone  off  to  dijeuner.  And 
on  arriving  he  perceived  the  girl's  father,  who  was  quietly 
seated  beside  her,  and  who  at  once  wished  to  explain  to  him 



the  reason  of  his  long  absence.  For  more  than  a  couple  of 
hours  that  morning  he  had  scoured  Lourdes  in  all  directions, 
applying  at  twenty  hotels  in  turn  -Without  being  able  to  find 
the  smallest  closet  where  they  might  sleep.  Even  the  servants' 
rooms  were  let  and  you  could  not  have  even  secured  a  mattress 
on  which  to  stretch  yourself  in  some  passage.  However,  all 
at  once,  just  as  he  was  despairing,  he  had  discovered  two 
rooms,  small  ones,  it  is  true,  and  just  under  the  roof,  but  in  a 
very  good  hotel,  that  of  the  Apparitions,  one  of  the  best  patro- 
nised in  the  town.  The  persons  who  had  retained  these 
rooms  had  just  telegraphed  that  the  patient  whom  they  had 
meant  to  bring  with  them  was  dead.  Briefly,  it  was  a  piece 
of  rare  good  luck,  and  seemed  to  make  M.  de  Guersaint  c[uite 

Eleven  o'clock  was  now  striking  and  the  woeful  procession 
of  sufferers  started  off  again  through  the  sunHt  streets  and 
squares.  When  it  reached  the  Hospital  Marie  begged  her 
father  and  Pierre  to  go  to  the  hotel,  lunch  and  rest  there 
awhile,  and  return  to  fetch  her  at  two  o'clock,  when  the 
patients  would  again  be  conducted  to  the  Grotto.  But  when, 
after  lunching,  the  two  men  went  up  to  the  rooms  which  they 
were  to  occupy  at  the  Hotel  of  the  Apparitions,  M.  de  Guer- 
saint, overcome  by  fatigue,  fell  so  soundly  asleep  that  Pierre 
had  not  the  heart  to  awaken. him.  What  would  have  been 
the  use  of  it  ?  His  presence  was  not  indispensable.  And  so 
the  young  priest  returned  to  the  Hospital  alone.  Then  the 
cortdge  again  descended  the  Avenue  de  la  Grotte,  again  wended 
its  way  over  the  Plateau  de  la  Merlasse,  again  crossed  the 
Place  du  Bosaire,  through  an  ever-growing  crowd  which 
shuddered  and  crossed  itself  amid  all  the  joyousness  of  that 
splendid  August  day.  It  was  now  the  most  glorious  hour  of 
a  lovely  afternoon. 

When  Marie  was  again  installed  in  front  of  the  Grotto  she 
inquired  if  her  father  were  coming.  '  Yes,'  answered  Pierre ; 
'  he  is  only  taking  a  Uttle  rest.' 

She  waved  her  hand  as  though  to  say  that  he  was  acting 
rightly,  and  then  in  a  sorely  troubled  voice  she  added :  '  Listen, 
Pierre ;  don't  take  me  to  the  piscina  for  another  hour.  I  am 
not  yet  in  a  state  to  find  favour  from  Heaven,  I  wish  to  pray, 
to  keep  on  praying.' 

After  evincing  such  an  ardent  desire  to  come  to  Lourdes, 
terrorwas  agitating  her  now  that  the  moment  for  attempting 
the  miracle  was  at  hand.    la  fact,  she  began  to  relate  that 


she  had  been  unable  to  eat  anything,  and  a  girl  who  overheard 
her  at  once  approached  saying :  'If  you  feel  too  weak,  my 
dear  young  lady,  remember  we  have  some  broth  here.' 

Marie  looked  at  her  and  recognised  Eaymonde.  Several 
young  girls  were  in  this  wise  employed  at  the  Grotto  to  dis- 
tribute cups  of  broth  and  milk  among  the  sufferers.  Some  of 
them,  indeed,  in  previous  years,  had  displayed  so  much  coquetry 
in  the  matter  of  silk  aprons  trimmed  with  lace,  that  a  uniform 
apron,  of  modest  linen,  with  a  small  check  pattern,  blue  and 
white,  had  been  imposed  on  them.  Nevertheless,  in  spite  of 
this  enforced  simplicity,  Eaymonde,  thanks  to  her  freshness 
and  her  active,  good-natured,  housewifely  air,  had  succeeded 
in  making  herseU  look  quite  charming. 

'  You  will  remember,  won't  you  ? '  she  added ;  '  you  have 
only  to  make  me  a  sign  and  I  will  serve  you.' 

Marie  thanked  her,  saying,  however,  that  she  felt  sure  she 
would  not  be  able  to  take  anything ;  and  then,  turning  towards 
the  young  priest,  she  resumed :  '  One  hour — you  must  allow 
me  one  more  hour,  my  friend.' 

Pierre  wished  at  any  rate  to  remain  near  her,  but  the 
entire  space  was  reserved  to  the  sufferers,  the  bearers  not  being 
allowed  there.  So  he  had  to  retire,  and,  caught  in  the  rolling 
Waves  of  the  crowd,  he  found  himself  carried  towards  the 
piscinas,  where  he  came  upon  an  extraordinary  spectacle  which 
stayed  his  steps.  In  front  of  the  low  buildings  where  the 
baths  were,  three  by  three,  six  for  the  women  and  three  for 
the  men,  he  perceived  under  the  trees  a  long  stretch  of  ground 
enclosed  by  a  rope  fastened  to  the  tree  trunks;  and  here 
various  sufferers,  some  sitting  in  their  bath-chairs  and  others 
lying  on  the  mattresses  of  their  litters,  were  drawn  up  in  line, 
waiting  to  be  bathed,  whilst  outside  the  rope,  a  huge,  excited 
throng  was  ever  pressing  and  surging.  A  Capuchin,  erect  in 
the  centre  of  the  reserved  space,  was  at  that  moment  conduct- 
ing the  prayers.  '  Aves '  followed  one  after  the  other,  repeated 
by  the  crowd  in  a  loud  confused  murmur.  Then,  all  at-once, 
as  Madame  Vincent,  who,  pale  with  agony,  had  long  been 
waiting,  was  admitted  to  the  baths,  carrying  her  dear  burden, 
her  little  girl  who-  looked  like  a  waxen  image  of  the  child 
Christ,  the  Capuchin  let  himself  fall  upon  his  knees  with  his 
arms  extended,  and  cried  aloud :  '  Lord,  heal  our  sick ! '  He 
raised  this  cry  a  dozen,  twenty  times,  with  a  growing  fury, 
and  each  time  the  crowd  repeated  it,  growing  more  and  more 
excited  at  each  shout,  till  it  sobbed  and  kissed  the  ground  in 



a  state  of  frenzy.  It  was  like  a  hurricane  of  delirium  rushing 
by  and  laying  every  head  among  the  dust.  Pierre  was  utterly 
distracted  by  the  sob  of  suffering  which  arose  from  the  very 
bowels  of  these  poor  folks — at  first  a  prayer,  growing  louder 
and  louder,  then  bursting  forth  like  a  demand  in  impatient, 
angry,  deafening,  obstinate  accents,  as  though  to  compel  the 
help  of  Heaven.  '  Lord,  heal  our  sick ! ' — '  Lord,  heal  our  sick ! ' 
The  shout  soared  on  high  incessantly. 

An  incident  occurred,  however  ;  La  Grivotte  was  weeping 
hot  tears  because  they  would  not  bathe  her.  '  They  say  that 
I'm  a  consumptive,'  she  plaintively  exclaimed,  '  and  that  they 
can't  dip  consumptives  in  cold  water.  Yet  they  dipped  one  this 
morning  ;  I  saw  her.  So  why  won't  they  dip  me  ?  I've  been 
wearing  myself  out  for  the  last  half-hour  in  telHng  them  that 
they  are  only  grieving  the  Blessed  Virgin,  for  I  am  going  to 
be  cured,  I  feel  it,  I  am  going  to  be  cured  ! ' 

As  she  was  beginning  to  cause  a  scandal,  one  of  the 
chaplains  of  the  piscinas  approached,  and  endeavoured  to 
calm  her.  They  would  see  what  they  could  do  for  her,  by- 
and-by,  said  he,  they  would  consult  the  reverend  Fathers ; 
and,  if  she  were  very  good,  perhaps  they  would  bathe  her  all 
the  same. 

Meantime  the  cry  continued :  '  Lord,  heal  our  sick !  Lord, 
heal  our  sick ! '  And  Pierre,  who  had  just  perceived  Madame 
Vetu,  also  waiting  at  the  piscina  entry,  could  no  longer  turn  his 
eyes  away  from  her  hope-tortured  face,  whose  eyes  were  fixed 
upon  the  doorway  by  which  the  happy  ones,  the  elect,  emerged 
from  the  divine  presence,  cured  of  all  their  ailments.  How- 
ever, a  sudden  increase  of  the  crowd's  frenzy,  a  perfect  rage  of 
entreaties,  gave  him  such  a  shock  as  to  draw  tears  from  his 
eyes.  Madame  Vincent  was  now  coining  out  again,  still 
carrying  her  little  girl  in  her  arms,  her  vsretched,  her  fondly 
loved  little  girl,  who  had  been  dipped  in  a  fainting  state  in  the 
icy  water,  and  whose  little  face,  but  imperfectly  wiped,  was  as 
pale  as  ever,  and  indeed  even  more  woeful  and  lifeless.  The 
mother  was  sobbing,  crucified  by  this  long  agony,  reduced  to 
despair  by  the  refusal  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  who  had  remained 
insensible  to  her  child's  sufferings.  And  yet  when  Madame 
Vetu  in  her  turn  entered,  with  the  eager  passion  of  a  dying 
woman  about  to  drink  the  water  of  life,  the  haunting,  obstinate 
cry  burst  forth  agam,  without  sign  of  discouragement  or 
lassitude :  '  Lord,  heal  our  sick  !  Lord,  heal  our  sick ! '  The 
Capuchin  had  i)pw  fallpn  witji  his  face  tio  the  ground,  and  the 


howling  crowd,  with  arms  outstretched,  devoured  the  soil  with 
its  kisses. 

■  Pierre  wished  to  join  Madame  Vincent  to  soothe  her  with 
a  few  kind,  encouraging  words,  but  a  fresh  string  of  pilgrims 
not  only  prevented  him  from  passing,  but  threw  him  towards 
the  fountain  which  another  throng  besieged.  There  was  here 
quite  a  range  of  low  buildings,  a  long  stone  wall  with  carved 
coping,  and  it  had  been  necessary  to  form  processions  although 
there  were  twelve  taps  from  which  the  water  fell  into  a  narrow 
basin.  Many  came  hither  to  fill  bottles,  metal  cans,  and 
stoneware  pitchers.  To  prevent  too  great  a  waste  of  water, 
the  tap  only  acted  when  a  knob  was  pressed  with  the  hand. 
And  thus  many  weak-handed  women  lingered  there  a  long  time, 
the  water  dripping  on  their  feet.  Those  who  had  no  cans  to  fill 
at  least  came  to  drink  and  wash  their  faces.  Pierre  noticed 
one  young  man  who  drank  seven  small  glassfuls  of  water,  and 
washed  his  eyes  seven  times  without  wiping  them.  Others 
were  drinking  out  of  shells,  tin  goblets,  and  leather  cups. 
And  he  was  particularly  interested  by  the  sight  of  Elise 
Eouquet,  who,  thinking  it  useless  to  go  to  the  piscinas  to 
bathe  the  frightful  sore  which  was  eating  away  her  face,  had 
contented  herself  with  employing  the  water  of  the  fountain  as 
a  lotion,  every  two  hours  since  her  arrival  that  morning.  She 
knelt  dowur  threw  back  her  fichu,  and  for  a  long  time  appUed 
a  handkerchief  to  her  face — a  handkerchief  which  she  had 
soaked  with  the  miraculous  fluid  like  a  sponge ;  and  the  crowd 
around  her  rushed  upon  the  fountain  in  such  fury  that  folks 
no  longer  noticed  her  diseased  face,  but  washed  themselves 
and  drank  from  the  same  pipe  at  which  she  constantly 
moistened  her  handkerchief.    . 

Just  then,  however,  Gerard,  who  passed  by  dragging  M. 
Sabathier  to  the  piscinas,  called  to  Pierre,  whom  he  saw  un- 
occupied, and  asked  him  to  come  and  help  him,  for  it  would  not 
be  an  easy  task  to  move  and  bathe  this  helpless  victim  of  ataxia. 
And  thus  Pierre  lingered  with  the  sufferer  in  the  men's  piscina 
for  nearly  half-an-hour,  whilst  G&ard  returned  to  the  Grotto 
to  fetch  another  patient.  These  piscinas  seemed  to  the  young 
priest  to  be  very  well  arranged.  They  were  divided  into 
three  compartments,  three  baths  separated  by  partitions,  with 
steps  leading  into  them.  In  order  that  one  might  isolate  the 
patient,  a  Men  curtain  hung  before  each  entry,  which  was 
reached  through  a  kind  of  waiting-room  having  a  paved  floor, 
and  f vunished  with  a  bench  and  a  couple  of  chairs.    Here  the 


patients  undressed  and  dressed  themselves  witii  an  awkward 
haste,  a  nervous  kind  of  shame.  One  man,  whom  Pierre  found 
there  when  he  entered,  was  still  naked,  and  wrapped  himself 
in  the  curtain  before  putting  on  a  bandage  with  trembling 
hands.  Another  one,  a  consumptive  who  was  frightfully 
emaciated,  sat  shivering  and  groaning,  his  livid  skin  mottled 
with  violet  marks.  However,  Pierre  became  more  interested 
in  Brother  Isidore,  who  was  just  being  removed  from  one 
of  the  baths.  He  had  fainted  away,  and  for  a  moment,  indeed, 
it  was  thought  that  he  was  dead.  But  at  last  he  beg^n  moan- 
ing again,  and  one's  heart  filled  with  pity  at  sight  of  his  long, 
lank  frame,  which  suffering  had  withered,  and  which,  with 
his  diseased  hip,  looked  a  human  remnant  on  exhibition. 
The  two  hospitallers  who  had  been  bathing  Tii'tti  had  the 
greatest  difficulty  to  put  on  his  shirt,  fearful  as  they  were 
that  if  he  were  suddenly  shaken  he  might  expire  in  their 

'  You  will  help  me,  Monsieur  I'AbbS,  won't  you  ? '  asked 
another  hospitaller  as  he  began  to  undress  M.  Sabatbier. 

Pierre  hastened  to  give  his  services,  and  found  that  the 
attendant,  discharging  such  humble  duties,  was  none  other 
than  the  Marquis  de  Salmon-Eoquebert  whom  M.  de  Guersaint 
had  pointed  out  to  him  on  the  way  from  the  station  to  the 
Hospital  that  morning.  A  man  of  forty,  with  a  large,  aquiline 
knightly  nose  set  in  a  long  face,  the  marquis  was  the  la^t 
representative  of  one  of  the  most  ancient  and  illustrious 
families  of  France.  Possessing  a  large  fortune,  a  regal 
mansion  in  the  Eue  de  Lille  at  Paris  and  vast  estates  in 
Normandy,  he  came  to  Lourdes,  each  year,  for  the  three  dayS 
of  the  national  pilgrimage,  influenced  solely  by  his  benevolent 
feelings,  for  he  had  no  religious  zeal  and  simply  observed  the 
rites  of  the  Church  because  it  was  customary  for  noblemen 
to  do  so.  And  be  obstinately  declined  any  high  functions. 
Eesolved  to  remain  a  hospitaUer,  he  had  that  year  assumed 
the  duty  of  bathing  the  patients,  exhausting  the  strength  of 
his  arms,  employing  his  fingers  from  morning  till  night  in 
handling  rags  and  re-applying  dressings  to  sores. 

'  Be  careful,'  he  said  to  Pierre ;  '  take  off  the  stockings  very 
slowly.  Just  now,  some  flesh  came  away  when  they  were 
taking  off  the  things  of  that  poor  fellow  who  is  being  dressed 
again,  over  yonder.' 

Then,  leaving  M.  Sabathier  for  a  moment  in  order  to  put 
on  the  shoes  of  the  unhappy  sufferer  whom  he  alluded  to,  the 


Marquis  found  the  left  shoe  wet  inside.  Some  matter  had 
flowed  into  the  fore  part  of  it,  and  he  had  to  take  the  usual 
medical  precautions  before  putting  it  on  the  patient's  foot,  a 
task  which  he  performed  with  extreme  care,  and  so  as  not  to 
touch  the  man's  leg,  into  which  an  ulcer  was  eating. 

'  And  now,'  he  said  to  Pierre  as  he  returned  to  M.  Sabathier, 
'  pull  down  the  drawers  at  the  same  time  as  I  do,  so  that  we 
may  get  them  off  at  one  pull.' 

In  addition  to  the  patients  and  the  hospitallers  selected  for 
fluty  at  the  piscinas,  the  only  person  in  the  little' dressing- 
room  was  a  chaplain  who  kept  on  repeating  '  Paters '  and 
'  Aves,'  for  not  even  a  momentary  pause  was  allowed  in  the 
prayers.  Merely  a  loose  curtain  hung  before  the  doorway 
leading  to  the  open  space  which  the  rope  enclosed ;  and  the 
ardent  clamorous  entreaties  of  the  throng  were  incessantly 
wafted  into  the  room,  with  the  piercing  shouts  of  the  Capuchin, 
who  ever  repeated  :  '  Lord,  heal  our  sick !  Lord,  heal  our  sick  ! ' 
A  cold  light  fell  from  the  high  windows  of  the  building  and 
constant  dampness  reigned  there,  with  a  mouldy  smell  like 
that  of  a  cellar  dripping  with  water. 

At  last  M.  Sabathier  was  stripped,  divested  of  all  garments 
save  a  little  apron  which  had  been  fastened  about  his  loins  for 
decency's  sake. 

'  Pray  don't  plunge  me,'  said  he ;  '  let  me  down  into  the 
water  by  degrees.' 

In  point  of  fact  that  cold  water  quite  terrified  him.  .  He 
was  stin  wont  to  relate  that  he  had  experienced  such  a  fright- 
ful chilling  sensation  on  the  first  occasion  that  he  had  sworn 
never  to  begin  again.  According  to  his  account  there  could 
be  no  worse  torture  than  that  icy  cold.  And  then  too,  as  he 
put  it,  the  water  was  scarcely  inviting  ;  for,  through  fear  lest 
the  output  of  the  source  should  not  suffice,  the  Fathers  of  the 
Grotto  only  allowed  the  water  of  the  baths  to  be  changed 
twice  a  day.  And  nearly  a  hundred  patients  being  dipped  in 
the  same  water,  it  can  be  imagined  what  a  terrible  soup  the 
latter  at  last  became.  AU  manner  of  things  were  found  in  it, 
so  that  it  was  like  a  frightful  consommS  of  all  ailments,  a  field 
of  cultivation  for  every  kind  of  poisonous  germ,  a  quintessence 
of  the  most  dreaded  contagious  diseases;  the  miraculous 
feature  of  it  all  being  that  men  should  emerge  aUve  from  their 
immersion  in  such  filth. 

'  Gently,  gently,'  repeated  M.  Sabathier  to  Pierre  and  the 
marquis,  who  had  taken  hold  of  him  under  the  hips  in 


order  to  carry  Hm  to  tie  bath.  And  he  gazed  with  childlike 
terror  at  that  thick,  hvid  water  on  which  floated  so  many 
greasy,  nauseating  patches  of  scum.  However,  his  dread  of 
the  cold  was  so  great  that  he  preferred  the  polluted  baths  of 
the  afternoon,  since  aU  the  bodies  that  were  dipped  in 
the  water  during  the  early  part  of  the  day  ended  by  sUghtly 
warming  it. 

'We  will  let  you  slide  down  the  steps,'  explained  the 
Marquis  in  an  undertone ;  and  then  he  instructed  Pierre  to 
hold  the  patient  with  aU  his  strength  under  the  arm-pits. 

'  Have  no  fear,'  replied  the  priest ;  '  I  will  not  let  go.' 

M.  Sabathier  was  then  slowly  lowered.  You  could  now 
only  see  his  back,  his  poor  painful  back  which  swayed  and 
swelled,  mottled  by  the  rippling  of  a  shiver.  And  when  they 
dipped  him,  his  head  fell  back  in  a  spasm,  a  sound  Uke  the 
cracking  of  bones  was  heard,  and,-  breathing  hard,  he  almost 

The  chaplain,  standing  beside  the  bath,  had  begun  calling 
with  renewed  fervour :  '  Lord,  heal  our  sick  !  Lord,  heal  our 
Bick  1 ' 

M.  de  Salmon-Eoquebert  repeated  the  cry,  which  the 
regulations  required  the  hospitallers  to  raise  at  each  fresh 
immersion.  Pierre,  therefore,  had  to  imitate  his  companion, 
and  his  pitiful  feelings  at  the  sight  of  so  much  suffering  were 
so  intense  that  he  regained  some  little  of  his  faith.  It  was 
long  indeed  since  he  had  prayed  hke  this,  devoutly  wishing 
that  there  might  be  a  God  in  Heaven,  whose  omnipotence 
could  assuage  the  wretchedness  of  humanity.  At  the  end  of 
three  or  four  minutes,  however,  when  with  great  difficulty  they 
drew  M.  Sabathier,  livid  and  shivering,  out  of  the  bath,  the 
young  priest  fell  into  deeper,  more  despairing  sorrow  than 
ever  at  beholding  how  downcast,  how  overwhelmed  the  sufferer 
was  at  having  experienced  no  relief.  Again  had  he  made  a 
futile  attempt;  for  the  seventh  time  the  Blessed  Virgin  had 
not  deigned  to  listen  to  his  prayers.  He  closed  his  eyes,  from 
between  the  lids  of  which  big  tears  began  to  roll  while  they 
were  dressing  him  again. 

Then  Pierre  recognised  little  Gustave  Vigneron  coming  in, 
on  his  crutch,  to  take  his  first  bath.  His  relatives,  his  father, 
his  mother,  and  his  aunt,  Madame  Chaise,  all  three  of  sub- 
stantial appearance  and  exemplary  piety,  had  just  fallen  on 
their  knees  at  the  door.  Whispers  ran  through  the  crowd ; 
it  was  said  that  the  gentleman  was  a  functionary  of  the 


Ministry  of  Finances.  However,  while  the  child  was  begin- 
ning to  undress  a  tumult  arose,  and  Father  Foureade  and 
Father  Massias,  suddenly  arriving,  gave  orders  to  suspend  the 
immersions.  The  great  miracle  was  about  to  be  attempted, 
the  extraordinary  favour  which  had  been  so  ardently  prayed 
for  since  the  morning — the  restoration  of  the  dead  man  to 

The  prayers  were  continuing  outside,  rising  in  a  furious 
appeal  which  died  away  in  the  sky  of  that  warm  summer 
afternoon.  Two  bearers  came  in  with  a  covered  stretcher, 
which  they  deposited  in  the  middle  of  the  dressing-room. 
Baron  Suire,  President  of  the  Association,  followed,  accom- 
panied by  Berthaud,  one  of  its  principal  officers,  for  the  affair 
was  causing  a  great  stir  among  the  whole  staff,  and  before 
anything  was  done  a  few  words  were  exchanged  in  low  voices 
between  the  gentlemen  and  the  two  Fathers  of  the  Assump- 
tion. Then  the  latter  fell  upon  their  knees,  with  arms 
extended,  and  began  to  pray,  their  faces  iUumined,  transfigured 
by  their  burning  desire  to  see  God's  omnipotence  displayed. 

'  Lord,  hear  us !    Lord,  grant  our  prayer ! ' 

M.  Sabathier  had  just  been  taken  away,  and  the  only 
patient  now  present  was  little  Gustave,  who  had  remained 
on  a  chair,  half- undressed  and  forgotten.  The  curtains  of  the 
stretcher  were  raised,  and  the  man's  corpse  appeared,  already 
stiff,  and  seemingly  reduced  and  shrunken,  with  large  eyes 
which  had  obstinately  remained  wide  open.  It  was  necessary, 
however,  to  undress  the  body,  which  was  still  fully  clad,  and 
this  terrible  duty  made  the  bearers  momentarily  hesitate. 
Pierre  noticed  that  the  Marquis  de  Salmon-Eoquebert,  who 
showed  such  devotion  to  the  living,  such  freedom  from  all 
repugnance  whenever  they  were  in  question,  had  now  drawn 
aside  and  fallen  on  his  knees,  as  though  to  avoid  the  necessity 
of  touching  that  lifeless  corpse.  And  the  young  priest  there- 
upon followed  his  example,  and  knelt  near  him  in  order  to 
keep  countenance. 

Father  Massias  meanwhile  was  gradually  becoming 
excited,  praying  in  so  loud  a  voice  that  it  drowned  that  of  his 
superior,  Father  Foureade :  '  Lord,  restore  our  brother  to  us  1 ' 
he  cried.    'Lord,  do  it  for  Thy  glory ! ' 

One  of  the  hospitallers  had  already  begun  to  puU  at  the 
man's  trousers,  but  his  legs  were  so  stiff  that  the  garment 
would  not  come  off.  In  fact  the  corpse  ought  to  have  been 
raised  up ;  and  the  other  hospitaller,  who  was  unbuttoning 


the  dead  man's  old  frock  coat,  remarked  in  an  undertone  that 
it  would  be  best  to  cut  everytbing  away  with  a  pair  of 
scissors.    Otherwise  there  would  be  no  end  of  the  job. 

Berthaud,  however,  rushed  up  to  them,  after  rajpidly  con- 
sulting Baron  Suire.  As  a  politician  he  secretly  disapproved 
of  Father  Fourcade's  fiction  in  making  such  an  attempt,  only 
they  could  not  now  do  otherwise  than  carry  matters  to  an 
issue ;  for  the  crowd  was  waiting  and  had  been  entreating 
God  on  the  dead  man's  behalf  ever  since  the  morning.  The 
wisest  course,  therefore,  was  to  finish  with  the  affair  at  once, 
showing  as  much  respect  as  possible  for  the  remains  of  the 
deceased.  In  lieu,  therefore,  of  pulling  the  corpse  about  in 
order  to  strip  it  bare,  Berthaud  was  of  opinion  that  it  would 
be  better  to  dip  it  in  the  piscina,  clad  as  it  was.  Should  the 
man  resuscitate,  it  would  be  easy  to  procure  fresh  clothes  for 
him ;  and  in  the  contrary  event,  no  harm  would  have  been 
done.  This  is  what  he  hastily  said  to  the  bearers ;  and  forth- 
with he  helped  them  to  pass  some  straps  under  the  man's  hips 
and  arms. 

Father  Fourcade  had  nodded  his  approval  of  this  course, 
whilst  Father  Massias  prayed  with  increased  fervour: 
'  Breathe  upon  him,  0  Lord,  and  he  shall  be  bom  anew ! 
Restore  his  soul  to  him,  0  Lord,  that  he  may  glorify 
Thee ! ' 

Making  an  effort,  the  two  hospitallers  now  raised  the  man 
by  means  of  the  straps,  carried  him  to  the  bath,  and  slowly 
lowered  him  into  the  water,  at  each  moment  fearing  that  he 
would  slip  away  from  their  hold.  Pierre,  although  overcome 
by  horror,  could  not  do  otherwise  than  look  at  them,  and  thus 
he  distinctly  beheld  the  immersion  of  this  corpse  in  its  sorry 
garments,  which  on  being  wetted  clung  to  the  bones,  outlining 
the  skeleton-hke  figure  of  the  deceased,  who  floated  like  a 
man  who  has  been  drowned.  But  the  repulsive  part  of  it  all 
was,  that  in  spite  of  the  rigor  mortis,  the  head  fell  backward 
into  the  water,  and  was  submerged  by  it.  Li  vain  did  the 
hospitallers  try  to  raise  it  by  pulling  the  shoulder  straps ; 
as  they  made  the  attempt,  the  man  almost  sank  to  the  bottom 
of  the  bath.  And  how  could  he  have  recovered  his  breath 
when  his  mouth  was  full  of  water,  his  staring  eyes  seemingly 
dying  afresh,  beneath  that  watery  veil  ? 

Then,  during  the  three  long  minutes  allowed  for  the 
immersion,  the  two  Fathers  of  the  Assumption  and  the  chap- 
lain, in  a  paroxysm  of  desire  and  faith,  strove  to  compel  the 


intervention  of  Heaven,  praying  in  such  loud  voices  that  they 
seemed  to  choke. 

'Do  Thou  but  look  on  him,  0  Lord,  and  he  will  live 
again  1  Lord !  may  he  rise  at  Thy  voice  to  convert  the 
earth  I  Lord  !  Thou  hast  but  one  word  to  say  and  all  Thy 
people  will  acclaim  Thee  ! ' 

At  last,  as  though  some  vessel  had  broken  in  his  throat, 
Father  Massias  fell  groaning  and  choking  on  his  elbows,  with 
only  enough  strength  left  him  to  kiss  the  flagstones.  And 
from  without  came  the  clamour  of  the  crowd,  the  ever- 
repeated  cry,  which  the  Capuchin  was  still  leading  :  '  Lord, 
heal  our  sick !  Lord,  heal  our  sick  1 '  This  appeal  soemed 
so  singular  at  that  moment,  that  Pierre's  sufferings  were 
increased.  He  could  feel  too  that  the  marquis  was  shudder- 
ing beside  him.  And  so  the  relief  was  general,  when  Berthaud, 
thoroughly  annoyed  with  the  whole  business,  curtly  shouted 
to  the  hospitallers :  '  Take  him  out !    Take  him  out  at  once  ! ' 

The  body  was  removed  from  the  bath  and  laid  on  the 
stretcher,  looking  hke  the  corpse  of  a  drowned  man  with  its 
sorry  garments  clinging  to  its  hmbs.  The  water  was  trickling 
from  the  hair,  and  rivulets  began  falling  on  either  side,  spread- 
ing out  in  pools  on  the  floor.  And  naturally,  dead  as  the 
man  had  been,  dead  he  remained. 

The  others  had  all  risen  and  stood  looking  at  him  amidst 
a  distressing  silence.  Then,  as  he  was  covered  up  and  carried 
away.  Father  Fourcade  foUowed  the  bier'  leaning  on  the 
Shoulder  of  Father  Massias  and  dragging  his  gouty  leg,  the 
painful  weight  of  which  he  had  momentarily  forgotten.  But 
he  was  already  recovering  his  strong  serenity,  and  as  a  hush 
fell  upon  the  crowd  outside,  he  could  be  heard  saying  :  '  My 
dear  brothers,  my  dear  sisters,  God  has  not  been  willing  to 
restore  him  to  us,  doubtless  because  in  His  infinite  goodness 
He  has  desired  to  retain  him  among  His  elect.' 

And  that  was  all ;  there  was  no  further  question  of  the 
dead  man.  Patients  were  again  being  brought  into  the  dress- 
ing room,  the  two  other  baths  were  already  occupied.  And 
now  little  Gustavo,  who  had  watched  that  terrible  scene  with 
his  keen  inquisitive  eyes,  evincing  no  sign  of  terror,  finished 
undressing  himself.  His  wretched  body,  the  body  of  a 
scrofulous  child,  appeared  with  its  prominent  ribs  and 
projecting  spine,  its  limbs  so  thin  that  they  looked  like  mere 
walking-sticks.  Especially  was  this  the  case  as  regards  the 
left  one,  which  was  withered,  wasted  to  the  bone ;  and  he  also 


had  two  sores,  one  on  the  hip  and  the  other  in  the  loins,  the 
last  a  terrible  one,  the  skin  being  eaten  away  so  that,  you 
distiactly  saw  the  raw  flesh.  Ypt  he  smiled,  rendered  so 
precocious  by  his  sufferings  that,  although  but  fifteen  years 
old  and  looking  no  more  than  ten,  he  seemed  to  be  endowed 
with  the  reason  and  philosophy  of  a  grown  man. 

The  Marquis  de  Salmon-Eoquebert,  who  had  taken  him 
gently  in  his  arms,  refused  Pierre's  offer  of  service : 
'  Thanks,  but  he  weighs  no  more  than  a  bird.  And  don't  be 
frightened,  my  dear  little  fellow.    I  will  do  it  gently.' 

'  Oh,  I  am  not  afraid  of  cold  water,  monsieur,'  replied  the 
boy ;  '  you  may  duck  me.' 

Then  he  was  lowered  into  the  bath  in  which  the  dead 
man  had  been  dipped.  Madame  Vigneron  and  Madame 
Chaise,  who  were  not  allowed  to  enter,  had  remained  at  the 
door  on  their  knees,  whilst  the  father,  M.  Vigneron,  who  was 
admitted  into  the  dressing-room,  went  on  making  the  sign  of 
the  cross. 

Finding  that  his  services  were  no  longer  required,  Pierre 
now  departed.  The  sudden  idea  that  three  o'clock  must 
have  long  since  struck  and  that  Marie  must  be  waiting 
for  him  made  him  hasten  his  steps.  However,  whilst  he 
was  endeavouring  to  pierce  the  crowd,  he  saw  the  girl  arrive 
in  her  little  conveyance,  dragged  along  by  G&ard,  who  had 
not  ceased  transporting  sufferers  to  the  piscina.  She  had 
become  impatient,  suddenly  filled  with  a  conviction  that  she 
was  at  last  in  a  frame  of  mind  to  find  grace.  And  at  sight  of 
Pierre  she  reproached  him,  saying, '  "Wliat,  my  friend,  did  you 
forget  me  ? ' 

He  could  find  no  answer,  but  watched  her  as  she  was 
taken  into  the  piscina  reserved  for  women,  and  then,  in 
mortal  sorrow,  fell  upon  his  knees.  It  was  there  that  he 
would  wait  for  her,  humbly  kneeling,  in  order  that  he  might 
take  her  back  to  the  Grotto,  cured  without  doubt  and  singing 
a  hymn  of  praise.  Since  she  was  certain  of  it  would  she  not 
assuredly  be  cured  ?  However,  it  was  in  vain  that  he  sought 
for  words  of  prayer  in  the  depths  of  his  distracted  being.  He 
was  still  under  the  blow  of  all  the  terrible  things  that  he  had 
beheld,  worn  out  with  physical  fatigue,  his  brain  depressed, 
no  longer  knowing  what  he  saw  or  what  he  believed.  His 
desperate  affection  for  Marie  alone  remained,  making  him 
long  to  humble  himself  and  supplicate,  in  the  thought  that 
when  little  ones  really  love  and  entreat  the  powerful  they  end 


by  obtaining  favours.  And  at  last  he  eaught  himself  repeating 
the  prayers  of  the  crowd,  in  a  distressful  voice  that  came 
from  the  depths  of  his  being :  '  Lord,  heal  our  sick  !  Lord, 
heal  our  sick ! ' 

Ten  minutes,  a  quarter  of  an  hour  perhaps,  went  by.  Then 
Marie  reappeared  in  her  little  conveyance.  Her  face  was 
very  pale  and  wore  an  expression  of  despair.  Her  beautiful 
hair  was  fastened  above  her  head  in  a  heavy  golden  coil 
which  the  water  had  jiot  touched.  And  she  was  not  cured. 
The  stupor  of  infinite  discouragement  hollowed  and  length- 
ened her  face,  and  she  averted  her  eyes  as  though  to  avoid 
meeting  those  of  the  priest  who,  thunderstruck,  chilled  to  the 
heart,  at  last  made  up  his  mind  to  grasp  the  handle  of  the 
little  vehicle,  so  as  to  take  the  girl  back  to  the  Grotto. 

And  meantime  the  cry  of  the  faithful,  who  with  open  arms 
were  kneeling  there  and  kissing  the  earth,  again  rose  with  a 
growing  fury,  excited  by  the  Capuchin's  shriU  voice :  '  Lord, 
heal  our  sick !    Heal  our  sick,  0  Lord ! ' 

As  Pierre  was  placing  Marie  in  position  again  in  front  of  the 
Grotto,  an  attack  of  weakness  came  over  her  and  she  almost 
fainted.  Gerard,  who  was  there,  saw  Eaymonde  quickly 
hurry  to  the  spot  with  a  cup  of  broth,  and  at  once  they  began 
zealously  rivalling  each  other  in  their  attentions  to  the  ailing 
girl.  Eaymonde,  holding  out  the  cup  in  a  pretty  way,  and 
assuming  the  coaxing  airs  of  an  expert  nurse,  especially  in- 
sisted that  Marie  should  accept  the  bouillon ;  and  Gerard, 
glancing  at  this  portioiHess  girl,  could  not  help  finding  her 
charming,  already  expert  in  the  business  of  life,  and  quite 
ready  to  manage  a  household  with  a  firm  hand  without  ceas- 
ing to  be  amiable.  Berthaud  was  no  doubt  right,  this  was 
the  wife  that  he,  Gerard,  needed. 

'  Mademoiselle,'  said  he  to  Eaymonde,  '  shall  I  raise  the 
young  lady  a  little  ? ' 

'  Thank  you,  monsieur,  I  am  quite  strong  enough.  And 
besides  I  will  give  it  her  in  spoonfuls  ;  that  will  be  the  better 

Marie,  however,  obstinately  preserving  her  fierce  sUenoe 
as  she  recovered  consciousness,  refused  the  broth  with  a 
gesture.  She  wished  to  be  left  in  quietness,  she  did  not  want 
anybody  to  question  her.  And  it  was  only  when  the  others 
had  gone  off  smiling  at  one  another,  that  she  said  to  Pierre 
in  a  husky  voice  :  '  Has  not  my  father  come  then  ? ' 

After  hesitating  for  a  moment  the  priest  was  obliged  to 


confess  the  truth.  '  I  left  him  sleeping  and  he  cannot  have 
woke  up.' 

Then  Marie  relapsed  into  her  state  of  languid  stupor  and 
dismissed  him  in  his  turn,  with  the  gesture  with  which  she 
declined  all  succour.  She  no  longer  prayed,  but  remained 
quite  motionless,  gazing  fixedly  with  her  large  eyes  at  the 
marble  Virgin,  the  white  statue  amidst  the  radiance  of  the 
Grotto.  Aid  as  four  o'clock  was  now  striking,  Pierre  with 
his  heart  sore  went  off  to  the  Verification  Office,  having 
suddenly  remembered  the  appointment  given  him  by  Doctor 



The  doctor  was  waiting  for  the  young  priest  outside  the 
Verification  Office,  in  front  of  which  a  compact  and  feverish 
crowd  of  pilgrims  was  assembled,  waylaying  and  questioning 
the  patients  who  went  in,  and  acclaiming  them  as  they  came 
out  whenever  the  news  spread  of  any  miracle,  such  as  the 
restoration  of  some  blind  man's  sight,  some  deaf  woman's 
hearing,  or  some  paralytic's  power  of  motion. 

Pierre  had  no  little  difficulty  in  making  his  way  through 
the  throng,  but  at  last  he  reached  his  friend.  '  Well,'  he 
asked, '  are  we  going  to  have  a  miracle — a  real,  incontestable 
one  I  mean  ?  '  . 

The  doctor  smiled,  indulgent  despite  his  new  faith.  '  Ah, 
well,'  said  he, '  a  miracle  is  not  worked  to  order.  God  inter- 
venes when -He  pleases.' 

Some  hospitallers  were  mounting  guard  at  the  door,  but 
they  all  knew  M.  Chassaigne,  and  respectfully  drew  aside 
to  let  him  enter  with  his  companion.  '  The  office  where  the 
cures  were  verified  was  very  badly  installed  in  a  wretched 
wooden  shanty  divided  into  two  apartments,  first  a  narrow 
antechamber,  and  then  a  general  meeting  room  which  was  by 
no  means  so  large  as  it  should  have  been.  However,  there 
was  a  question  of  providing  the  department  with  better 
accommodation  the  following  year;  with  which  view  some 
large  premises,  under  one  of  the  inclined  ways  of  the  Eosary, 
were  already  being  fitted  up. 

The  only  article  of  furniture  in  the  antechamber  was  a 
wooden  bench  on  which  Pierre  perceived  two  female  patients 


awaiting  their  turn  in  the  charge  of  a  young  hospitaller.  But 
on  entering  the  meeting  room  the  number  of  persons  packed 
inside  it  quite  surprised  him,  whilst  the  suffocating  heat 
within  those  wooden  walls  on  which  the  sun  was  so  fiercely 
playing,  almost  scorched  his  face.  It  was  a  square  bare 
room,  painted  a  light  yellow,  with  the  panes  of  its  single 
window  covered  with  whitening,  so  that  the  pressing  throng 
outside  might  see  nothing  of  what  went  on  within.  One 
dared  not  even  open  this  window  to  admit  a  litte  fresh  air, 
for  it  was  no  sooner  set  ajar  than  a  crowd  of  inquisitive 
heads  peeped  in.  The  furniture  was  of  a  very  rudimentary 
kind,  consisting  simply  of  two  deal  tables  of  unequal  height 
placed  end  to  end  and  not  even  covered  with  a  cloth ;  together 
with  a  kind  of  big  '  canterbury '  littered  with  untidy  papers, 
sets  of  documents,  registers  and  pamphlets,  and  finally  some 
thirty  rush-seated  chairs  placed  here  and  there  over  the  floor 
and  a  couple  of  ragged  arm-chairs  usually  reserved  for  the 

Doctor  Bonamy  at  once  hastened  forward  to  greet  Doctor 
Chassaigne,  who  was  one  of  the  latest  and  most  glorious 
conquests  of  the  Grotto.  He  found  a  chair  for  bim  and, 
bowing  to  Pierre's  cassock,  also  made  the  young  priest  sit 
down.  Then,  in  the  tone  of  extreme  pohteness  which  was 
customary  with  him,  he  exclaimed :  '  Mon  clier  confr&re,  you 
will  kindly  allow  me  to  continue.  We  were  just  examining 

He  referred  to  a  deaf  peasant  girl  of  twenty,  who  was 
seated  in  one  of  the  arm-chairs.  Instead  of  hstening,  how- 
ever, Pierre,  who  was  very  weary,  still  with  a  buzzing  in  his 
head,  contented  himself  with  gazing  at  the  scene,  endeavour- 
ing to  form  some  notion  of  the  people  assembled  in  the  room. 
There  were  some  fifty  altogether,  many  of  them  standing  and 
leaning  against  the  walls.  Half  a  dozen,  however,  were  seated 
at  the  two  tables,  a  central  position  being  occupied  by  the 
superintendent  of  the  piscinas,  who  was  constantly  consulting 
a  thick  register;  whilst  around  him  were  a  Father  of  the 
Assumption  and  three  young  seminarists  who  acted  as  secre- 
taries, writing,  searching  for  documents,  passing  them  and 
classifying  them  again  after  each  examination.  Pierre,  how- 
ever, took  most  interest  in  a.  Father  of  the  Immaculate  Con- 
ception, Father  Dargeles,  who  had  been  pointed  out;  to  him 
that  morning  as  being  the  editor  of  the  '  Journal  de  la  Grotte.' 
This  ecclesiastic,  whose  thin  little  face,  with  its  bUnking  eyes. 


pointed  nose,  and  delicate  mouth  was  ever  smiling,  had 
modestly  seated  himself  at  the  end  of  the  lower  table  where 
he  occasionally  took  notes  for  his  newspaper.  He  alone,  of 
the  community  to  which  he  belonged,  showed  himself  during 
the  three  days  of  the  national  pilgrimage.  Behind  him, 
however,  one  could  divine  the  presence  of  all  the  others,  the 
slowly  developed  hidden  power  which  organised  everything 
and  raked  in  all  the  proceeds. 

The  onlookers  consisted  almost  entirely  of  inquisitive 
people  and  witnesses,  including  a  score  of  doctors  and  a  few 
priests.  The  medical  men,  who  had  come  from  all  parts, 
mostly  preserved  silence,  only  a  few  of  them  occasionally 
venturing  to  ask  a  question ;  and  every  now  and  then  they 
would  exchange  oblique  glances,  more  occupied  apparently  in 
watching  one  another  than  in  verifying  the  facts  submitted  to 
their  examination.  Who  could  they  be  ?  Some  names  were 
mentioned,  but  they  were  quite  unknown.  Only  one  had 
caused  any  stir,  that  of  a  celebrated  doctor  professing  at  a 
Catholic  University. 

That  afternoon,  however.  Doctor  Bonamy,  who  never  sat 
down,  busy  as  he  was  conducting  the  proceedings  and  ques- 
tioning the  patients,  reserved  most  of  his  attentions  for  a 
short  fair-haired  man,  a  writer  of  some  talent  who  contributed 
to  one  of  the  most  widely-read  Paris  newspapers,  and  who  in 
the  course  of  a  holiday  tour,  bad  by  chance  reached  Lourdes, 
that  morning.  Was  not  this  an  unbehever  whom  it  might  be 
possible  to  convert,  whose  influence  it  would  be  desirable  to 
gain  for  advertisement'  sake  ?  Such  at  all  events  appeared 
to  be  M.  Bonamy's  opinion,  for  he  had  compelled  the  jour- 
nalist to  take  the  second  arm-chair,  and  with  an  affectation 
of  smiling  good  nature  was  treating  him  to  a  full  performance, 
again  and  again  repeating  that  he  and  his  patrons  had  nothing 
to  hide,  and  that  everything  took  place  in  the  most  open 

'  We  only  desire  light,'  he  exclaimed.  '  We  never  cease  to 
call  for  the  investigations  of  all  willing  men.' 

Then,  as  the  alleged  cure  of  the  deaf  girl  did  not  seem  at 
all  a  promising  case,  he  addressed  her  somewhat  roughly : 
'  Come,  come,  my  girl,  this  is  only  a  beginning.  You  must 
come  back  when  there  are  more  distinct  signs  of  improvement.' 
And  turning  to  th?  journalist  he  added  in  an  undertone :  '  If 
we  were  to  believe  them  they  would  all  be  healed.  But  the 
only  cures  we  accept  are  those  which  are  thoroughly  proven, 


which  are  as  apparent  as  the  sun  itself.  Pray  notice  more- 
over that  I  say  cures  and  not  miracles ;  for  we  doctors  do  not 
take  upon  ourselves  to  interpret  and  explain.  We  are  simply 
here  to  see  if  the  patients,  who  submit  themselves  to  our 
examination,  have  really  lost  all  symptoms  of  their  ailments.' 

Thereupon  he  struck  an  attitude.  Doubtless  he  spoke  like 
this  in  order  that  his  rectitude  might  not  be  called  in  ques- 
tion. Believing  without  believing,  he  knew  that  science  was 
yet  so  obscure,  so  full  of  surprises,  that  what  seemed  im- 
possible might  always  come  to  pass ;  and  thus,  in  the  declining 
years  of  his  hfe,  he  had  contrived  to  secure  an  exceptional 
position  at  the  Grotto,  a  position  which  had  both  its  inconve- 
niences and  its  advantages,  but  which,  taken  for  all  in  aU,  was 
very  comfortable  and  pleasant. 

And  now,  in  reply  to  a  question  from  the  Paris  journalist, 
he  began  to  explain  his  mode  of  proceeding.  Each  patient 
who  accompanied  the  pilgrimage  arrived  provided  with  papers, 
amongst  which  there  was  almost  always  a  certificate  of  the 
doctor  who  had  been  attending  the  case.  At  times  even  there 
were  certificates  given  by  several  doctors,  hospital  bulletins 
and  so  forth — quite  a  record  of  the  illness  in  its  various  stages. 
And  thus  if  a  cure  took  place  and  the  cured  person  came 
forward,  it  was  only  necessary  to  consult  his  or  her  set  of 
documents  in  order  to  ascertain  the  nature  of  the  ailment, 
and  then  examination  would  show  if  that  ailment  had  really 

Pierre  was  now  Ustening.  Since  he  had  been  there,  seated 
and  resting  himself,  he  had  grown  calmer  and  his  mind 
was  clear  once  more.  It  was  only  the  heat  which  at  present 
caused  him  any  inconvenience.  And  thus,  interested  as  he 
was  by  Doctor  Bonamy's  explanations,  and  desirous  of  forming 
an  opinion,  he  would  have  spoken  out  and  questioned,  had  it  not 
been  for  his  cloth  which  condemned  him  to  remain  in  the 
background.  He  was  delighted,  therefore  when  the  Uttle  fair- 
haired  gentleman,  the  influential  writer,  began  to  bring 
forward  the  objections  which  at  once  occurred  to  him.*  Was 
it  not  most  unfortunate  that  one  doctor  should  diagnose  the 
iUness  and  that  another  one  should  verify  the  cure  ?  In  this 
mode  of  proceeding  there  was  certainly  a  source  of  frequent 
error.  The  better  plan  would  have  been  for  a  medical  com- 
mission to  examine  all  the  patients  as  soon  as  they  arrived  at 

*  The  reader  will  doubtless  have  understood  that  the  Parisian  jour- 
nalist is  pong  other  thgn  M.  ^pl»  bijnself,— Tj-juns, 


Lourdes  and  draw  up  reports  on  every  ease,  to  which  reports 
the  same  commission  would  have  referred  whenever  an  alleged 
cure  was  brought  before  it.  Doctor  Bonamy,  however,  did  not 
fall  in  with  this  suggestion.  He  replied,  with  some  reason, 
that  a  commission  would  never  sufiSce  for  such  gigantic  labour. 
Just  think  of  it !  A  thousand  patients  to  examine  in  a  single 
morning  !  And  how  many^  different  theories  there  would  be, 
how  many  contrary  diagnoses,  how  many  endless  discussions, 
all  of  a  nature  to  increase  the  general  uncertainty !  The  pre- 
liminary examination  of  the  patients,  which  was  almost  always 
impossible,  would,  even  if  attempted,  leave  the  door  open  for 
as  many  errors  as  the  present  system.  In  practice,  it  was 
necessary  to  remain  content  vrith  the  certificates  delivered  by 
the  medical  men  who  had  been  jn  attendance  on  the  patients, 
and  these  certificates  accordingly  acquired  capital,  decisive 
importance.  Doctor  Bonamy  ran  through  the  documents  lying 
on  one  of  the  tables  and  gave  the  Paris  joumaUst  some  of 
these  certificates  to  read.  A  great  many  of  them  unfortu- 
nately were  very  brief.  Others,  more  BkUfully  drawn  up, 
clearly  specified  the  nature  of  the  complaint ;  and  some  of  the 
doctors'  signatures  were  even  certified  by  the  mayors  of  the 
localities  where  they  resided.  Nevertheless  doubts  remained, 
innumerable  and  not  to  be  surmounted.  Who  were  these 
doctors  ?  Who  could  tell  if  they  possessed  sufficient  scientific 
authority  to  write  as  they  did  ?  With  all  respect  to  the 
medical  profession,  were  there  not  innumerable  doctors  whose 
attainments  were  very  limited  ?  And,  besides,  might  not 
these  have  been  influenced  by  circumstances  that  one  knew 
nothing  of,  in  some  cases  by  considerations  of  a  personal 
character  ?  One  was  tempted  to  ask  for  an  inquiry  respecting 
each  of  these  medical  men.  Since  everything  was  based  ou 
the  documents  supplied  by  the  patients,  these  documents 
ought  to  have  been  most  carefully  controlled ;  for  there  could 
be  no  proof  of  uny  miracle  if  the  absolute  certainty  of  the 
alleged  aUmenta  had  not  been  demonstrated  by  stringent 

Very  red  and  covered  with  perspiration,,  Doctor  Bonamy 
waved  his  arms.  'But  that  is  the  course  we  follow,  that 
is  the  course  we  follow ! '  said  he.  '  As  soon  as  it  seems 
to  us  that  a  case  of  cure  cannot  be  explained  by  natural 
means,  we  institute  a  minute  inquiry,  we  request  the  person 
who  has  been  cured  to  return  here  for  further  examination. 
And  as  you  can  see  we  surround  ourselves  with  all  means  bi 


enlightenment.  These  gentlemen  here,  who  are  listening  to 
us,  are  nearly  every  one  of  them  doctors  who  have  come  from 
all  parts  of  France.  We  always  entreat  them  to  express  their 
doubts  if  they  feel  any,  to  discuss  the  cases  with  us,  and  a 
very  detailed  report  of  each  discussion  is  drawn  up.  You 
hear  me,  gentlemen,  by  all  means  protest  if  anything  occurs 
here  of  a  nature  to  offend  your  sense  of  truth.' 

Not  one  of  the  onlookers  spoke.  Most  of  the  doctors 
present  were  undoubtedly  Catholics,  and  naturally  enough 
they  merely  bowed.  As  for  the  others,  the  unbelievers,  the 
savants  pure  and  simple,  they  looked  on  and  evinced  some 
interest  in  certain  phenomena,  but  considerations  of  courtesy 
deterred  them  from  entering  into  discussions  which  they 
knew  would  have  been  useless.  When  as  men  of  sense  their 
discomfort  became  too  great,  and  they  felt  themselves  growing 
angry,  they  simply  left  the  room. 

As  nobody  breathed  a  word,  Doctor  Bonamy  became  quite 
triumphant,  and  on  the  journalist  asking  him  if  he  were  all 
alone  to  accomplish  so  much  work,  he  replied :  '  Yps,  all 
alone ;  but  my  functions  as  doctor  of  the  Grotto  are  not  so 
complicated  as  you  may  think,  for,  I  repeat  it,  they  simply 
consist  in  verifying  cures  whenever  any  take  place.'  How- 
ever, he  corrected  himself,  and  added  with  a  smile  :  '  Ah  !  I 
was  forgetting,  I  am  not  quite  alone,  I  have  Eaboin,  who 
helps  me  to  keep  things  a  little  bit  in  order  here.' 

So  saying  he  pointed  to  a  stout,  grey-haired  man  of  forty, 
with  a  heavy  face  and  bull-dog  jaw.  Eaboin  was  an  ardent 
behever,  one  of  those  excited  beings  who  did  not  allow  the 
miracles  to  be  called  in  question.  And  thus  he  often  suffered 
from  his  duties  at  the  Verification  Office,  where  he  was  ever 
ready  to  growl  with  anger  when  anybody  disputed  a  prodigy. 
The  appeal  to  the  doctors  had  made  him  quite  lose  his  temper, 
and  his  superior  had  to  calm  him. 

'  Come,  Eaboin,  my  friend,  be  quiet ! '  said  Doctor  Bonamy. 
'  All  sincere  opinions  are  entitled  to  a  hearing.' 

However,  the  defili  of  patients  was  resumed.  A  man  was 
now  brought  in  whose  trunk  was  so  covered  with  eczema 
that  when  he  took  off  his  shirt  a  kind  of  grey  flour  fell  from 
his  skin.  He  was  not  cured,  but  simply  declared  that  he 
came  to  Lourdes  every  year,  and  always  went  away  feeling 
relieved..  Then  came  a  lady,  a  countess,  who  was  fearfully 
emaciated,  and  whose  story  was  an  extraordinary  one.  Cured 
of  tuberculosis  by  the  Blessed  Virgin,  a  first  time,  seven  years 

le.  2 

1 64  LOURDES 

previously,  ehe  had  subsequently  given  birth  to  four  children, 
and  had  then  again  fallen  into  consumption.  At  present  she 
was  a  morphinomaniac,  but  her  first  bath  had  already  relieved 
her  s,o  much,  that  she  proposed  taking  part  in  the  torchlight 
procession  that  same  evening  with  the  twenty-seven  members 
of  her  family  whom  she  had  brought  with  her  to  Lourdes. 
Then  there  was  a  woman  afflicted  with  nervous  aphonia,  who 
after  months  of  absolute  dumbne.w  had  just  recovered  her 
voice  at  the  moment  when  the  Blessed  Sacrament  went  by  at 
the  head  of  the  four  o'clock  procession. 

'  Gentlemen,'  declared  Doctor  Bonamy,  affecting  the 
graciousness  of  a  savant  of  extremely  Uberal  views,  '  as  you 
are  aware,  we  do  not  draw  any  conclusions  when  a  nervous 
affection  is  in  question.  Still  you  will  kindly  observe  that 
this  woman  was  treated  at  the  Salpetri^re  for  six  months, 
and  that  she  had  to  come  here  to  find  her  tongue  suddenly 

Despite  all  these  fine  words  he  displayed  some  little 
impatience,  for  he  would  have  greatly  Uked  to  show  the 
gentleman  from  Paris  one  of  those  remarkable  instances  of 
cure  which  occasionally  presented  themselves  during  the  four 
o'clock  procession — that  being  the  moment  of  grace  and 
exaltation  when  the  Blessed  Virgin  interceded  for  those  whom 
she  had  chosen.  But  on  this  particular  afternoon  there  had 
apparently  been  none.  The  cures  which  had  so  far  passed 
before  them  were  doubtful  ones,  deficient  in  interest.  Mean- 
while, out  of  doors,  you  could  hear  the  stamping  and  roaring 
of  the  crowd,  goaded  into  a  frenzy  by  repeated  hymns,  en- 
fevered  by  its  earnest  desire  for  the  divine  interposition,  and 
growing  more  and  more  enervated  by  the  delay. 

All  at  once,  however,  a  smiling,  modest-looking  young 
girl,  whose  clear  eyes  sparkled  with  intelligence,  entered  the 
office.  '  Ah  ! '  exclaimed  Doctor  Bonamy  joyously, '  here  is 
our  little  friend  Sophie.  A  remarkable  cure,  gentlemen, 
which  took  place  at  the  same  season  last  year,  and  the  results 
of  which  I  wiU  ask  permission  to  show  you.' 

Pierre  had  immediately  recognised  Sophie  Couteau,  the 
miracuUe  who  had  got  into  the  train  at  Poitiers.  And  he 
now  witnessed  a  repetition  of  the  scene  which  had  already 
been  acted  in  his  presence.  Doctor  Bonamy  began  giving 
detailed  explanations  to  the  little  fair-haired  gentleman,  who 
displayed  great  attention.  The  case,  said  the  doctor,  had 
been  Qpe  of  parjea  of  the  bones  of  the  left  heel,  with  %  codj- 


mencement  of  necrosis  necessitating  excision ;  and  yet  the 
frightful,  suppurating  sore  had  been  healed  in  a  minute  at  the 
first  immersion  in  the  piscina. 

'  Tell  the  gentleman  how  it  happened,  Sophie,'  he  added. 

The  Httle  girl  made  her  usual  pretty  gesture  as  a  sign  to 
everybody  to  be  attentive.  And  then  she  began :  '  Well,  it 
■was  like  this ;  my  foot  was  past  cure,  I  couldn't  even  go  to 
church  any  more,  and  it  had  to  be-  kept  bandaged  because 
there  was  always  a  lot  of  matter  coming  from  it.  Monsieur 
Eivoire,  the  doctor,  who  had  made  a  out  in  it  so  as  to  see 
inside  it,  said  that  he  should  be  obliged  to  take  out  a  piece  of 
the  bone  ;  and  that,  sure  enough,  would  have  made  me  lame 
for  life.  But  when  I  got  to  Lourdes,  and  had  prayed  a 
great  deal  to  the  Blessed  Virgin,  I  went  to  dip  my  foot  in  the 
water,  wishing  so  much  that  I  might  be  cured,  that  I  did  not 
even  take  the  time  to  puU  the  bandages  off,  And  everything 
remained  in  the  water,  there  was  no  longer  anything  the 
matter  with  my  foot  when  I  took  it  out.' 

Doctor  Bonamy  listened,  and  punctuated  each  word  with 
an  approving  nod.  '  And  what  did  your  doctor  say,  Sophie  ? ' 
he  asked. 

'  When  I  got  back  to  Vivonne,  and  Monsieur  Eivoire  saw 
my  foot  again,  he  said  ;  "  Whether  it  be  God  or  the  devil  who 
has  cured  this  child,  it  is  aU  the  same  to  me;  but  in  all 
truth,  she  is  cured."  ' 

A  burst  of  laughter  rang  out.  The  doctor's  remark  was 
sure  to  produce  an  effect. 

'  And  what  was  it,  Sophie,  that  you  said  to  Madame  la 
Comtesse,  the  superintendent  of  your  ward  ? ' 

'  Ah,  yes !  I  hadn't  brought  many  bandages  for  my  foot 
with  me,  and  I  said  to  her,  "  It  was  very  kind  of  the  Blessed 
Virgin  to  cure  me  the  first  day,  as  I  should  have  run  out  of 
linen  on  the  morrow."  ' 

Then  there  was  fresh  laughter,  a  general  display  of  satis- 
faction at  seeing  her  look  so  pretty,  telling  her  story,  which 
she  now  knew  by  heart,  in  too  recitative  a  manner,  but,  never- 
theless, remaining  very  touching  and  truthful  in  appearance. 

'  Take  off  your  shoe,  Sophie,'  now  said  Doctor  Bonamy ; 
'  show  your  foot  to  these  gentlemen.  Let  them  feel  it.  Nobody 
must  retain  any  doubt.' 

The  little  foot  promptly  appeared,  very  white,  very  clean, 
carefully  tended  indeed,  with  its  scar  just  below  the  ankle,  a 
long  scar,  whose  whity  seam  testified  to  the  gravity  of  the 


complaint.  Some  of  the  medical  men  had  drawn  near,  and 
looked  on  in  silence.  Others,  whose  opinions,  no  doubt,  were 
abeady  formed,  did  not  disturb  themselves,  though  one  of 
them,  with  an  air  of  extreme  politeness,  inquired  why  the 
Blessed  Virgin  had  not  made  a  new  foot  while  she  was  about 
it,  for  this  would  assuredly  have  given  her  no  more  trouble. 
Doctor  Bonamy,  however,  quickly  replied  that  if  the  Blessed 
Virgin  had  left  a  scar,  it  was  certainly  in  order  that  a  trace,  a 
proof  of  the  miracle,  might  remain.  Then  he  entered  into 
technical  particulars,  demonstrating  that  a  fragment  of  bone 
and  flesh  must  have  been  instantly  formed,  and  this,  of  course, 
could  not  be  explained  in  any  natural  way. 

'  Mon  Dieu  I '  interrupted  the  little  fair-haired  gentleman, 
'there  is  no  need  of  any  such  complicated  affair.  Let  me 
merely  see  a  finger  cut  with  a  penknife,  let  me  see  it  dipped 
in  the  water,  and  let  it  come  out  with. the  cut  cicatrised.  The 
miracle  will  be  quite  as  great,  and  I  shall  "bow  to  it  respect- 
fully.' Then  he  added :  '  If  I  possessed  a  source  which  could 
thus  close  up  sores  and  wounds,  'jjiyould  turn  the  world 
topsy-turvy.  I  do  not  know  exactly ^6w  I  should  manage  it, 
but  at  all  events  I  would  summon  the  nations,  and  the  nations 
would  come.  I  should  cause  the  miracles  to  be  verified  in  such 
an  indisputable  manner,  that  I  should  b6  the  master  of  the 
earth.  Just  think  what  an  extraordinary  power  it  would  be 
— a  divine  power.  But  it  would  be  necessary  that  not  a  doubt 
should  remain,  the  truth  would  have  to  be  as  patent,  as 
apparent  as  the  sun  itself.  The  whole  world  would  behold  it 
and  believe ! ' 

Then  he  began  discussing  various  methods  of  control 
with  the  doctor.  He  had  admitted  that,  owing  to  the  great 
number  of  patients,  it  would  be  difficult,  if  not  impossible,  to 
examine  them  all  on  their  arrival.  Only,  why  didn't  they 
organise  a  special  ward  at  the  Hospital,  a  ward  which  would 
be  reserved  for  cases  of  visible  sores  ?,  They  would  have  thirty 
such  cases  all  told,  which  might  be  subjected  to  the  prelimi- 
nary examination  of  a  committee.  Authentic  reports  would 
be  drawn  up,  and  the  sores  might  even  be  photographed. 
Then,  if  a  case  of  cure  should  present  itself,  the  commission 
would  merely  have  to  authenticate  it  by  a  fresh  report.  And 
in  all  this  there  would  be  no  question  of  any  internal  com- 
plaint, the  diagnostication  of  which  is  difficult,  and  liable  to  be 
controverted.  There  would  be  visible  evidence  of  the  ailment, 
and  cure  could  be  proved. 


Somewhat  embarrassed,  Doctor  Bonamy  replied :  '  No 
doubt,  no  doubt,  all  we  ask  for  is  enlightenment.  The 
difficulty  would  lie  in  forming  the  committee  you  speak  of. 
If  you  only  knew  how  little  medical  men  agree  1  However, 
there  is  certainly  an  idea  in  what  you  say.' 

Fortunately,  a  fresh  patient  now  came  to  his  assistance. 
Whilst  little  Sophie  Couteau,  abeady  forgotten,  was  putting 
on  her  shoes  again,  Elise  Bouquet  appeared,  and,  removing 
her  wrap,  displayed  her  diseased  face  to  view.  She  related 
that  she  had  been  bathing  it  with  her  handkerchief  ever  since 
the  morning,  and  it  seemed  to  her  that  her  sore,  previously  so 
fresh  and  raw,  was  already  beginning  to  dry  and  grow  paler 
in  colour.  This  was  true;  Pierre  noticed,  with  great  sur- 
prise, that  the  aspect  of  the  sore  was  now  less  horrible.  This 
supplied  fresh  food  for  the  discussion  on  visible  sores,  for  the 
little  fair-haired  gentleman  clung  obstinately  to  his  idea  of 
organising  a  special  ward.  Indeed,  said  he,  if  the  condition  ot 
this  girl  had"  been  verified  that  morning,  and  she  should  be 
cured,  what  a  triumph  it  would  have  been  for  the  Grotto, 
which  could  have  claimed  to  have  healed  a  lupus  !  It  would 
then  have  no  longer  been  possible  to  deny  that  miracles  were 

Doctor  Chassaigne  had  so  far  kept  in  the  background, 
motionless  and  sUent,  as  though  he  desired  that  the  facts 
alone  should  exercise  their  influence  on  Pierre.  But  he  now 
leant  forward  and  said  to  him  in  an  undertone :  '  Visible 
sores,  visible  sores  indeed!  That  gentleman  can  have  no 
idea  that  our  most  learned  medical  men  suspect  many  of 
these  sores  to  be  of  nervous  origin.  Yes,  we  are  discovering 
that  complauita  of  this  kind  are  often  simply  due  to  bad 
nutrition  of  the  skin.  These  questions  of  nutrition  are  still 
so  imperfectly  studied  and  understood!  And  some  medical 
men  are  also  beginning  to  prove  that  the  faith  which  heals 
can  even  cure  sores,  certain  forms  of'  lupus  among  others. 
And  so  I  would  ask  what  certainty  that  gentleman  would 
obtain  with  his  ward  for  visible  sores  ?  There  would  simply 
be  a  little  more  confusion  and  passion  in  arguing  the  eternal 
question.  No,  no!  Science  is  vain,  it  is  a  sea  of  un- 

He  smiled  sorrowfully  whilst  Doctor  Bonamy,  after 
advising  Elise  Bouquet  to  continue  using  the  water  as  lotion 
and  to  return  each  day  for  further  examination,  repeated 
with  bis  prudent,  affable  air :  '  At  all  events,  gentlemen,  there 


are  signs  of  improvement  in  this  case — that  is  beyond 

But  all  at  once  the  office  was  fairly  turned  topsy-turvy  by 
the  arrival  of  La  Grivotte,  who  swept  in  like  a  whirlwind, 
almost  dancing  with  dehght  and  shouting  in  a  full  voice :  '  I 
am  cured  1  I  am  cured ! ' 

And  forthwith  she  began  to  relate  that  they  had  first  of 
all  refused  to  bathe  her,  and  that  she  had  been  obliged  to 
insist  and  beg  and  sob  in  order  to  prevail  upon  them  to  do  so, 
after  receiving  Father  Fourcade's  express  permission.  And 
then  it  had  all  happened  as  she  had  previously  said  it  would. 
She  had  not  been  immersed  in  the  icy  water  for  three  minutes 
— all  perspiring  as  she  was,  with  her  consumptive  rattle — 
before  she  had  felt  strength  returning  to  her  like  a  whipstroke 
lashing  her  whole  body.  And  now  a  fiaming  excitement 
possessed  her ;  radiant,  stamping  her  feet,  she  was  unable  to 
keep  still. 

'  I  am  cured,  my  good  gentlemen,  I  am  cured ! ' 

Pierre  looked  at  her,  this  time  quite  stupefied.  Was  this 
the  same  girl  whom,  on  the  previous  night,  he  had  seen  lying 
on  the  carriage  seat,  annihilated,  coughing  and  spitting  blood, 
with  her  face  of  ashen  hue  ?  He  could  not  recognise  her  as 
she  now  stood  there,  erect  and  slender,  her  cheeks  rosy,  her 
eyes  sparkling,  upbuoyed  by  a  determination  to  live,  a  joy  in 
living  already. 

'  Gentlemen,'  declared  Doctor  Bonamy, '  the  case  appears 
to  me  to  be  a  very  interesting  one.    We  will  see.' 

Then  he  asked  for  the  documents  concerning  La  Grivotte. 
But  they  could  not  be  found  among  all  the  papers  heaped 
together  on  the  two  tables.  The  young  seminarists  who  acted 
as  secretaries  began  turning  everything  over  ;  and  the  super- 
intendent of  the  piscinas  who  sat  in  their  midst  himself  had 
to  get  up  to  see  if  these  documents  were  in  the  '  canterbury.' 
At  last,  when  he  had  sat  down  again,  he  found  them  imder 
the  register  which  lay  open  before  him.  Among  them  were 
three  medical  certificates  which  he  read  aloud.  All  three  of 
them  agreed  in  stating  that  the  case  was  one  of  advanced 
phthisis,  complicated  by  nervous  incidents  which  invested  it 
with  a  peeuUar  character. 

Doctor  Bonamy  wagged  his  head  as  though  to  say  that 
such  an  ensemble  of  testimony  could  leave  no  room  for  doubt. 
Forthwith,  he  subjected  the  patient  to  a  prolonged  ausculta- 
tion.   And  he  murmured :  '  I  hear  nothing — I  hear  nothing.* 

VEklFlCATtON  169 

Then,  correcting  himself,  he  added :  •  At  least  I  hear  scarcely 

Finally  he  turned  towards  the  five-and-twenty  or  thirty 
doctors  who  were  assembled  there  in  silence.  '  Will  some  of 
you  gentlemen,'  he  asked, '  kindly  lend  me  the  help  of  your 
science  ?    "We  are  here  to  study  and  discuss  these  questions.' 

At  first  nobody  stirred.  Then  there  was  one  who  ventured 
to  come  forward  and  in  his  turn  subject  the  patient  to  auscul- 
tation. But  instead  of  declaring  himself,  he  continued  reflect- 
ing, shaking  his  head  anxiously.  At  last  he  stammered  that  in 
his  opinion  one  must  await  further  developments.  Another 
doctor,  however,  at  once  took  his  place,  and  this  one  expressed 
a  decided  opinion.  He  could  hear  nothing  at  all,  that  woman 
could  never  have  suffered  from  phthisis.  Then  others  followed 
him ;  in  fact,  with  the  exception  of  five  or  six  whose  smiling 
faces  remained  impenetrable,  they  aU  joined  the  dijili.  And 
the  confusion  now  attained  its  apogee;  for  each  gave  an 
opinion  sensibly  differing  from  that  of  his  colleagues,  so  that 
a  general  uproar  arose  and  one  could  no  longer  hear  oneself 
speak.  Father  Dargel^s  alone  retained  the  calmness  of  perfect 
serenity,  for  he  had  scented  one  of  those  cases  which  impassion 
people  and  redound  to  the  glory  of  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes.  He 
was  already  taking  notes  on  a  comer  of  the  table. 

Thanks  to  all  the  noise  of  the  discussion,  Pierre  and  Doctor 
Ghassaigne,  seated  at  some  distance  from  the  others,  were 
now  able  to  talk  together  without  being  heard.  '  Oh  !  those 
piscinas ! '  said  the  young  priest, '  I  have  just  seen  them.  To 
think  that  the  water  should  be  so  seldom  changed !  What 
filth  it  is,  what  a  soup  of  microbes !  What  a  terrible  blow 
for  the  present  day  mania,  that  rage  for  antiseptic  precau- 
tions I  How  is  it  that  some  pestilence  does  not  carry  off  all 
these  poor  people  ?  The  opponents  of  the  microbe  theory 
must  be  having  a  good  laugh ' 

M.  Ghassaigne  stopped  him.  '  No,  no,  my  child,'  said  he. 
'  The  baths  may  be  scarcely  clean,  but  they  offer  no  danger. 
Please  notice  that  the  temperature  of  the  water  never  rises 
above  fifty  degrees,  and  that  seventy-seven  are  necessary  for 
the  cultivation  of  germs.*  Besides,  scarcely  any  contagious 
diseases  come  to  Lourdes,  neither  cholera,  nor  typhus,  nor 
variola,  nor  measles,  nor  scarlatina.    We  only  see  certain 

*  The  above  are  Fahrenheit  degrees.  In  the  original  the  figures  are 
10  and  25,  but  these  are  nndoubtedlj  Centigrade  degrees.— SVons. 


organic  affections  here,. paralysis,  scrofula,  tumours,  ulcers  and 
abscesses,  cancers  and  phthisis ;  and  the  latter  cannot  be  trans- 
mitted by  the  water  of  the  baths.  The  old  sores  which  are 
bathed  have  nothing  to  fear,  and  offer  no  risk  of  contagion. 
I  can  assure  you  that  on  this  point  there  is  even  no  necessity 
for  the  Blessed  Virgin  to  intervene.' 

'  Then,  in  that  case,  doctor,'  rejoined  Pierre, '  when  you 
were  practising,  you  would  have  dipped  aU  your  patients  in 
icy  water — women  at  no  matter  what  season,  rheumatic 
patients,  people  suffering  from  diseases  of  the  heart,  con- 
sumptives, and  so  on  ?  For  instance,  that  unhappy  girl,  half 
dead,  and  covered  with  sweat — ^would  you  have  bathed  her  ? ' 

'  Certainly  not !  There  are  heroic  methods  of  treatment 
to  which,  in  practice,  one  does  not  dare  to  have  recourse.  An 
icy  bath  may  undoubtedly  kill  a  consumptive ;  but  do  we 
know,  whether,  in  certain  circumstances,  it  might  not  save 
her  ?  I,  who  have  ended  by  admitting  that  a  supernatural 
power  is  at  work  here,  I  willingly  admit  that  some  cures  must 
take  place  xmder  natural  conditions,  thanks  to  that  immersion 
in  cold  water  which  seems  to  us  idiotic  and  barbarous.  Ah  1 
the  things  we  don't  know,  the  things  we  don't  know ! ' 

He  was  relapsing  into  his  anger,  liis  hatred  of  science, 
which  he  scorned  since  it  had  left  him  scared  and  powerless  ' 
beside  the  deathbed  of  his  wife  and  his  daughter.  '  You  ask 
for  certainties,'  he  resumed,  '  but  assuredly  it  is  not  medicine 
which  will  give  you  them.  Listen  for  a  moment  to  those 
gentlemen  and  you  will  be  ediffed.  Is  it  not  beautiful,  all 
that  confusion  in  which  so  many  opinions  clash  together? 
Certainly  there  are  ailments  with  which  one  is  thoroughly 
acquainted,  even  to  the  most  minute  details  of  their  evolution  ; 
there  are  remedies  also,  the  effects  of  which  have  been  studied 
vsdth  the  most  scrupulous  care ;  but  the  thing  that  one  does 
not  know,  that  one  cannot  know,  is  the  relation  of  the  remedy 
to  the  ailment,  for  there  are  as  many  cases  as  there  may  be 
patients,  each  liable  to  variation,  so  that  experimentation 
begins  afresh  every  time.  This  is  why  the  practice  of 
medicine  remains  an  art,  for  there  can  be  no  experimental 
finality  in  it.  Cure  always  depends  on  chance,  on  some 
fortunate  circumstance,  on  some  bright  idea  of  the  doctor's. 
And  so  you  will  understand  that  all  the  people  who  come  and 
discuss  here  make  me  laugh  when  they  talk  about  the 
absolute  laws  of  science.  Where  are  those  laws  in  medicine  ? 
I  should  like  to  have  them  shown  to  me  ? ' 


He  did  not  wish  to  say  any  more,  but  his  passion  carried 
him  away,  so  he  went  on :  '  I  told  you  that  I  had  become  a 
behever — nevertheless,  to  speak  the  truth,  I  understand  very 
well  why  this  worthy  Doctor  Bonamy  is  so  little  affected,  and 
why  he  continues  calling  upon  doctors  in  all  parts  of  the  world 
to  come  and  study  his  miracles.  The  more  doctors  that  might 
come,  the  less  likelihood  there  would  be  of  the  truth  being 
established  in  the  inevitable  battle  between  contradictory 
diagnoses  and  methods  of  treatment.  If  men  cannot  agree 
about  a  visible  sore,  they  surely  cannot  do  so  about  an  internal 
lesion  the  existence  of  which  will  be  admitted  by  some,  and 
denied  by  others.  And  why  then  should  not  everything 
become  a  miracle  ?  For,  after  all,  whether  the  action  comes 
from  nature  or  from  some  unknown  power,  medical  men  are, 
as  a  rule,  none  the  less  astonished  when  an  ilbiess  terminates 
in  a  manner  which  they  have  not  foreseen.  No  doubt,  too, 
things  are  very  badly  organised  here.  Those  certificates 
from  doctors  whom  nobody  knows  have  no  real  value.  All 
documents  ought  to  be  stringently  inquired  into.  But  even 
admitting  any  absolute  scientific  strictness,  you  must  be  very 
simple,  my  dear  child,  if  you  imagine  that  a  positive  conviction 
woiid  be  arrived  at,  absolute  for  one  and  all.  Error  is  im- 
planted in  man,  and  there  is  no  more  difficult  task  than  that 
of  demonstrating  to  universal  satisfaction  the  most  insignificant 
J-"  iPierre  had  now  begun  to  understand  what  was  taking 
\  place  at  Lourdes,  the  extraordinary  spectacle  which  the  world. 
\had  been  witnessing  for  years,  amidst  the  devout  adoration  of 
some  and  the  insulting  laughter  of  others.  Forces  as  yet  but 
imperfectly  studied,  of ^  which  one  was  even  ignorant,  were 
certainly  at  work — auto-suggestion,  long  prepared  disturbance 
of  the  nerves ;  inspiriting  influence  of  the  journey,  the  prayers 
and  the  hymns  ;  and  especially  the  healing  breath,  the 
unknown  force  which  was  evolved  from  the  multitude,  in  the 
acute  crisis  of  faith.  Thus  it  seemed  to  him  anything  but 
intelligent  to  believe  in  trickery.  The  facts  were  both  of  a 
much  more  lofty  and  much  more  simple  nature.'  There  was 
no  occasion  for  the  Fathers  of  the  Grotto  to  descend  to  false- 
hood ;  it  was  sufficient  that  they  should  help  in  creating 
confusion,  that  they  should  utilise  the  universal  ignorance. 
It  might  even  be  admitted  that  everybody  acted  in  good  faith 
— ^the  doctors  void  of  genius  who  delivered  the  certificates, 
the  consoled  patients  who  believed  themselves  cured,  and  the 

172  LOURDES  \ 

impassioned  witnesses  ■who  swore  that  they  had  behel^vhai 
they  described.  And  from  all  this  was  evolved  the  ob^ous 
impossibility  of  proving  whether  there  was  a  miracle  or  not. 
And  such  being  the  case,  did  not  the  miracle  naturally 
become  a  reality  for  the  greater  number,  for  aU  those  mio 
Buffered  and  who  had  need  of  hope  ? 

Then,  as  Doctor  Bonamy,  who  had  noticed  that  they  w£  'e 
chatting  apart,  came  up  to  them,  Pierre  ventured  to  inquiri  : 
'  What  is  about  the  proportion  of  the  cures  to  the  number  )f 
cases  ? ' 

'  About  ten  per  cent.,'  answered  the  doctor ;  and  reading 
in  the  young  priest's  eyes  the  words  that  he  could  not  utter, 
he  added  in  a  very  cordial  way :  '  Oh  !  there  would  be  mamy 
more,  they  would  all  be  cured  if  we  chose  to  listen  to  them. 
But  it  is  as  well  to  say  it,  I  am  only  here  to  keep  an  eye  on 
the  miracles,  like  a  policeman  as  it  were.  My  only  funoiions 
are  to  check  excessive  zeal,  and  to  prevent  holy  things 
from  being  made  ridiculous.  In  one  word  this  office  is 
simply  an  office  where  a  visa  is  given  when  the  cures  have 
been  verified  and  seem  real  ones.' 

He  was  interrupted,  however,  by  a  low  growl.  Eaboin 
was  growing  angry :  '  The  cures  verified,  the  cures  verified,' 
he  muttered. '  What  is  the  use  of  that  ?  There  is  no  pause 
in  the  working  of  the  miracles.  What  is  the  use  of  verifying 
them,  so  far  as  beHevers  are  concerned  ?  They  merely  have 
to  bow  down  and  believe.  And  what  is  the  use  too,  as 
regards  the  unbehevers  ?  Tlmy  will  never  be  convinced.  The 
work  we  do  here  is  so  much  foohshness.' 

Doctor  Bonamy  severely  ordered  him  to  hold  his  tongue. 
'  You  are  a  rebel,  Eaboin,'  said  he ;  '  I  shall  tell  Father 
Capdebarthe  that  I  won't  have  you  here  any  longer  since  you 
pass  your  time  in  sowing  disobedience.' 

Nevertheless,  there  was  truth  in  what  had  just  been  said 
by  this  man,  who  so  promptly  showed  his  teeth,  eager  to  bite 
whenever  his  faith  was  assailed ;  and  Pierre  looked  at  him 
with  sympathy.  AU  the  work  of  the  Verification  Office — 
work  anything  but  well  performed — was  indeed  useless,  for  it 
wounded  the  feelings  of  the  pious,  and  failed  to  satisfy  the 
incredulous.  Besides,  can  a  miracle  be  proved?  No,  you 
must  believe  in  it  I  When  God  is  pleased  to  intervene  it  is 
not  for  man  to  try  to  understand.  In  the  ages  of  real 
belief  Science  did  not  make  any  meddlesome  attempt  to 
explain  the  nature  of  the  Divinity.    And  why  should  it  come 


and  interfere  here  ?  By  doing  so,  it  simply  hampered  faith 
and  diminished  its  own  prestige.  No,  no,  there  must  be  no 
Science,  you  must  throw  yourself  upon  the  ground,  kiss  it 
and  believe.  Or  else  you  must  take  yourself  off.  No  com- 
promise was  possible.  If  examination  once  began  it  must  go 
on,  and  must,  fatally,  conduct  to  doubt. 

Pierre's  greatest  sufferings,  however,  came  from  the  extra- 
ordinary conversations  which  he  heard  around  him.  There 
were  some  believers  present  who  spoke  of  the  miracles  with 
the  most  amazing  ease  and  tranquillity.  The  most  stupefying 
stories  left  their  serenity  entire.  Another  miracle  and  yet 
another !  And  with  smiles  on  their  faces,  their  reason  never 
protesting,  they  went  on  relating  such  imaginings  as  could 
only  have  come  from  diseased  brains.  They  were  evidently 
living  in  such  a  state  of  visionary  fever  that  nothing  hence- 
forth could  astonish  them.  And  not  only  did  Pierre  notice 
this  among  folks  of  simple,  childish  minds,  illiterate,  hal- 
lucinated creatures  like  Eaboin,  but  also  among  the  men  of 
intellect,  the  men  with  cultivated  brains,  the  savants  like 
Doctor  Bonamy  and  others.  It  was  incredible.  And  thus 
Pierre  felt  a  growing  discomfort  arising  within  him,  a  covert  V 
anger  which  would  doubtless  end  by  bursting  forth.  His 
reason  was  struggling,  like  that  of  some  poor  wretch  who  after 
being  flung  into  a  river,  feels  the  waters  seize  him  from  all 
sides  and  stifle  him  ;  and  he  reflected  that  the  minds  which, 
like  Doctor  Chassaigne's,  sink  at  last  into  blind  belief,  must 
pass  through  this  same  discomfort  and  struggle  before  the 
final  shipwreck. 

He  glanced  at  his  old  friend  and  saw  how  sorrowful  he 
looked,  struck  down  by  destiny,  as  weak  as  a  crying  chUd,  and 
henceforth  quite  alone  in  life.  Nevertheless,  he  was  unable 
to  check  the  cry  of  protest  which  rose  to  his  lips :  '  No,  no,  if 
we  do  not  know  everything,  even  if  we  shall  never  know 
everything,  there  is  no  reason  why  we  should  leave  off  learning. 
It  is  wrong  that  the  Unknown  should  profit  by  man's  debility 
and  ignorance.  On  the  contrary,  the  eternal  hope  should  be 
that  the  things  which  now  seem  inexplicable  will  some  day 
be  explained ;  and  we  cannot,  under  healthy  conditions,  have 
any  other  ideal  than  this  march  towards  the  discovery  of  the 
unknown,  this  victory  slowly  achieved  by  reason  amidst  all  the 
miseries  both  of  the  flesh  and  of  the  mind.  Ah !  reason — it 
is  my  reason  which  makes  me  sufffer,  and  it  is  from  my  reason 
too  thai)  I  await  all  my  strength,     'VVhen  reason  dies,  the 


whole  being  perishes.  And  I  feel  but  an  ardent  thirst  to 
satisfy  my  reason  more  and  more,  even  though  I  may  lose  all 
happiness  in  doing  so.' 

Tears  were  appearing  in  Doctor  Ohassaigne's  eyes ; 
doubtless  the  memory  of  Ms  dear  dead  ones  had  again  flashed 
upon  him.  And,  in  his  turn,  he  murmured :  '  Eeason,  reason, 
yes,  certainly  it  is  a  thing  to  be  very  proud  of;  it  embodies 
the  very  dignity  of  life.  But  there  is  love,  which  is  life's 
omnipotence,  the  one  blessing  to  be  won  again  when  you  have 
lost  it.' 

His  voice  sank  in  a  stifled  sob  ;  and  as  in  a  mechanical 
way  he  began  to  finger  the  sets  of  documents  lying  on  the 
table,  he  espied  among  them  one  whose  cover  bore  the  name 
of  Marie  de  Guersaiat  in  large  letters.  He  opened  it  and 
read  the  certificates  of  the  two  doctors  who  had  inferred  that 
the  case  Was  one  of  paralysis  of  the  marrow.  '  Come,  my 
child,'  he  then  resumed,  '  I  know  that  you  feel  warm  affection 
for  Mademoiselle  de  Guersaint.  What  should  you  say  if  she 
were  cured  here  ?  There  are  here  some  certificates,  bearing 
honourable  names,  and  you  know  that  paralysis  of  this  nature 
is  virtually  incurable.  .Well,  if  this  young  person  should  aU 
at  once  run  and  jump  about  as  I  have  seen  so  many  others 
do,  would  you  not  feel  very  happy,  would  you  not  at  last 
acknowledge  the  intervention  of  a  supernatural  power  ? ' 

Pierre  was  about  to  reply,  when  he  suddenly  remembered 
his  cousin  Beauclair's  expression  of  opinion,  the  prediction 
that  the  miracle  would  come  about  hke  a  lightning  stroke,  an 
awakening,  an  exaltation  of  the  whole  being ;  and  he  felt  his 
discomfort  increase  and  contented  himself  with  replying: 
'  Yes,  indeed,  I  should  be  very  happy.  And  you  are  right ; 
there  is  doubtless  only  a  determination  to  secm-e  happiness  in 
all  the  agitation  one  beholds  here.' 

However,  he  could  remain  in  that  office  no  longer.  The 
heat  was  becoming  so  great  that  perspiration  streamed  down 
the  faces  of  those  present.  Doctor  Bonamy  had  begun  to 
dictate  a  report  of  the  examination  of  La  Grivotte  to  one  of 
the  seminarists,  while  Father  Dargeles,  watchful  with  regard 
to  the  expressions  employed,  occasionally  rose  and  whispered 
in  his  ear  so  as  to  make  him  modify  some  sentence.  Mean- 
time, the  tumult  around  them  was  continuing  ;  the  discussion 
among  the  medical  men  had  taken  another  turn  and  now  bore 
on  certain  technical  points  of  no  significance  with  regard 
to  the  case  in  question.    You  could  no  longer  breathe  within 


those  wooden  walls,  nausea  was  upsetting  every  heart  and 
every  head.  The  little  fair-haired  gentleman,  the  influential 
writer  from  Pari^,  had  already  gone  away,  quite  vexed  at  not 
having  seen  a  real  miracle. 

Pierre  thereupon  said  to  Doctor  Chassaigne,  'Let  us  go;  I 
shall  be  taken  ill  if  I  stay  here  any  longer.' 

They  left  the  office  at  the  same  time  as  La  Grivotte,  who 
was  at  last  being  dismissed.  And  as  soon  as  they  reached  the 
door  they  found  themselves  caught  in  a  torrential,  surging, 
jostling  crowd,  which  was  eager  to  behold  the  girl  so  miracu- 
lously healed ;  for  the  report  of  the  miracle  must  have  already 
spread,  and  one  and  all  were  struggling  to  see  the  chosen  one, 
question  her  and  touch  her.  And  she,  with  her  empurpled 
cheeks,  her  flaming  eyes,  her  dancing  gait,  could  do  nothing 
but  repeat, '  I  am  cm-ed,  I  am  cured ! ' 

Shouts  drowned  her  voice,  she  herself  was  submerged, 
carried  off  amidst  the  eddies  of  the  throng.  For  a  moment 
one  lost  sight  of  her  as  though  she  had  sunk  in  those  tumul- 
tuous waters ;  then  she  suddenly  reappeared  close  to  Pierre 
and  the  doctor,  who  endeavoured  to  extricate  her  from  the 
crush.  They  had  just  perceived  the  Commander,  one  of  whose 
manias  was  to  come  down  to  the  pisciaas  and  the  Grotto  in 
order  to  vent  his  anger  there.  With  his  frock-coat  tightly 
girding  him  in  military  fashion,  he  was,  as  usual,  leaning  on 
his  silver-knobbed  walking-stick,  sUghtly  dragging  his  left  leg, 
which  his  second  attack  of  paralysis  had  stiffened.  And  his 
face  reddened  and  his  eyes  flashed  with  anger  when  La  Grivotte, 
pushing  him  aside  in  order  that  she  might  pass,  repeated 
amidst  the  wild  enthusiasm  of  the  crowd, '  I  am  cured,  I  am 
cured ! ' 

'  Well ! '  he  cried,  seized  with  sudden  fury, '  so  much  the 
worse  for  you,  my  girl  1 ' 

Exclamations  arose,  folks  began  to  laugh,  for  he  was  well 
known,  and  his  maniacal  passion  for  death  was  forgiven  him. 
However,  when  he  began  stammering  confused  words,  saying 
that  it  was  pitiful  to  desire  hfe  when  one  was  possessed  of 
neither  beauty  nor  fortune,  and  that  this  girl  ought,  to  "have 
preferred  to  die  at  once  rather  than  suffer  again,  people  began 
to  growl  around  him,  and  Abb6  Judaine,  who  was  passing, 
had  to  extricate  him  from  his  trouble.  The  priest  drew  him 
away.  '  Be  quiet,  my  friend,  be  quiet,'  he  said.  '  It  is  scan- 
dalous. Why  do  you  rebel  like  this  against  the  goodness  of 
God  who  occasionally  shows  His  compassion  for  our  sufferings 


by  alleviating  them  ?  I  tell  you  again  that  you  yourself  ought 
to  fall  on  your  knees  and  beg  Him  to  restore  to  you  the  use  of 
your  leg  and  let  you  hve  another  ten  years.' 

The  Commander  almost  choked  with  anger.  '  What ! '  he 
replied,  '  ask  to  live  for  another  ten  years,  when  my  finest  day 
will  be  the  day  I  die  I  Show  myself  as  spiritless,  as  cowardly 
as  the  thousands  of  patients  whom  I  see  pass  along  here, 
full  of  a  base  terror  of  death,  shrieking  aloud  their  weakness, 
their  passion  to  remain  aUve  I  Ah !  no,  I  should  feel  too 
much  contempt  for  myself.  I  want  to  die ! — to  die  at  once  1 
It  will  be  so  delightful  to  be  no  more.' 

He  was  at  last  out  of  the  scramble  of  the  pilgrims,  and 
again  found  himself  near  Doctor  Chassaigne  and  Pierre  on  the 
bank  of  the  Gave.  And  he  addressed  himself  to  the  doctor, 
whom  he  often  met :  '  Didn't  they  try  to  restore  a  dead  man 
to  hfe  just  now  ? '  he  asked ;  '  I  was  told  of  it — it  almost  suf- 
focated me.  Eh,  doctor  ?  You  understand  ?  That  man  was 
happy  enough  to  be  dead,  and  they  dared  to  dip  him  in  their 
water  in  the  criminal  hope  of  making  him  live  again  !  But 
suppose  they  had  succeeded,  suppose  their  water  had  animated 
that  poor  devil  once  more — for  one  never  knows  what  may 
happen  in  this  funny  world — don't  you  think  that  the  man 
would  have  had  a  perfect  right  to  spit  his  anger  in  the  face  of 
those  corpse-menders  ?  .Had  he  asked  them  to  awaken  him  ? 
How  did  they  know  if  he  were  not  well  pleased  at  being  dead  ? 
Folks  ought  to  be  consulted  at  any  rate.  Just  picture  them 
playing  the  same  vile  trick  on  me  when  I  at  last  fall  into  the 
great  deep  sleep.  Ah  !  I  would  give  them  a  nice  reception. 
"  Meddle  with  what  concerns  you,"  I  should  say,  and  you 
may  be  sure  I  should  make  all  haste  to  die  again  ! ' 

He  looked  so  singular  in  the  fit  of  rage  which  had  come 
over  him  that  Abb6  Judaine  and  the  doctor  could  not  help 
smiling.  Pierre,  however,  remained  grave,  chilled  by  the  great 
quiver  which  swept  by.  Were  not  those  words  he  had  just 
heard  the  despairing  imprecations  of  Lazarus?  He  had 
often  imagined  Lazarus  emerging  from  the  tomb  and  crying 
aloud :  '  Why  hast  Thou  again  awakened  me  to  this  abomi- 
nable  life,  0  Lord  ?  I  was  sleeping  the  eternal,  dreamless 
sleep  so  deeply;  I  was  at  last  enjoying  such  sweet  repose 
amidst  the  delights  of  Nihihty  1  I  had  known  every  wretched- 
ness and  every  dolour,  treachery,  vain  hope,  defeat,  sickness  ; 
as  one  of  the  living  I  had  paid  my  frightful  debt  to  suffering, 
(gr  I  wap  born  without  knowing  why,  a,nd  I  lived  without 


knowing  how ;  &,nd  now,  behold,  0  Lord,  Thou  requirest  me 
to  pay  my  debt  yet  again ;  Thou  condemnest  me  to  serve  my 
term  of  punishment  afresh  !  Have  I  then  been  guilty  of  some 
inexpiable  transgression  that  thou  shouldst  inflict  such  cruel 
chastisement  upon  me  ?  Alas  !  to  Uve  again,  to  feel  oneself 
die  a  Uttle  in  one's  flesh  each  day,  to  have  no  inteUigence  save 
such  as  is  required  in  order  to  doubt ;  no  will,  save  such  as 
one  must  have  to  be  unable  ;  no  tenderness,  save  such  as  is 
needed  to  weep  over  one's  own  sorrows.  Yet  it  was  past,  I 
had  crossed  the  terrifying  threshold  of  death,  I  had  known 
that  second  which  is  so  horrible  that  it  suffieeth  to  poison  the 
whole  of  life.  I  had  felt  the  sweat  of  agony  cover  me  with 
moisture,  the  blood  flow  back  from  my  limbs,  my  breath  for- 
sake me,  flee  away  in  a  last  gasp.  And  Thou  ordainest  that 
I  should  know  this  distress  a  second  time,  that  I  should  die 
twice,  that  my  human  misery  should  exceed  that  of  all  man- 
kind. Then  may  it  be  even  now,  0  Lord !  Yes,  I  entreat 
Thee,  do  also  this  great  miracle ;  may  I  once  more  lay  myself 
down  in  this  grave,  and  again  fall  asleep  without  suffering 
from  the  interruption  of  my  eternal  slumber.  Have  mercy 
upon  me,  and  forbear  from  inflicting  on  me  the  torture  of  living 
yet  again ;  that  torture  which  is  so  frightful  that  Thou  hast 
never  inflicted  it  on  any  being.  I  have  always  loved  Thee 
and  served  Thee ;  and  I  beseech  Thee  do  not  make  of  me  the 
greatest  example  of  Thy  wrath,  a  cause  of  terror  unto  all 
generations.  But  show  unto  me  Thy  gentleness  and  loving 
kindness,  0  Lord  !  restore  unto  me  the  slumber  I  have  earned, 
and  let  me  sleep  once  more  amid  the  delights  of  Thy  nihility,' 

While  Pierre  was  pondering  in  this  vrise,  Abbe  Judaine 
bad  led  the  Commander  away,  at  last  managing  to  calm  him  ; 
and  now  the  young  priest  shook  hands  with  Doctor  Chassaigne, 
recollecting  that  it  was  past  iive  o'clock,  and  that  Marie  must 
be  waiting  for  him.  On  his  way  back  to  the  Grotto,  however, 
he  encountered  the  Abbe  Des  Hermoises  deep  in  conversation 
with  M.  de  Guersaint,  who  had  only  just  left  his  room  at  the 
hotel,  and  was  quite  enlivened  by  his  good  nap.  He  and  his 
companion  were  admiring  the  extraordinary  beauty  which  the 
fervour  of  faith  imparted  to  some  women's  countenances, 
and  they  also  spoke  of  their  projected  trip  to  the  Cirque  de 

On  learning,  however,  that  Marie  had  taken  a  first  bath 
with  no  effect,  M.  de  Guersaint  at  once  followed  Pierre. 
Ihey  found  the  poor  girl  still  in  the  same  painful  stupor, 



with  her  eyes  still  fixed  on  the  Blessed  Virgin  who  had  not 
deigned  to  hear  her.  She  did  not  answer  the  loving  words 
which  her  father  addressed  to  her,  but  simply  glanced  at  him 
with  her  large,  distressful  eyes,  and  then  again  turned  them 
upon  the  marble  statue  which  looked  so  white  amid  the 
radiance  of  the  tapers.  And  whilst  Pierre  stood  waiting  to 
take  her  back  to  the  Hospital,  M.  de  Guersaint  devoutly  fell 
upon  his  knees.  At  first  he  prayed  with  passionate  ardour 
for  his  daughter's  cure,  and  then  he  solicited,  on  his  own 
behalf,  the  favour  of  finding  some  wealthy  person  who  would 
provide  him  with  the  million  of  francs  that  he  needed  for  his 
studies  on  aerial  navigation. 


beenadette's  tisials 

About  eleven  o'clock  that  night-,  leaving  M.  de  Guersaint  in 
his  room  at  the  Hotel  of  the  Apparitions,  it  occurred  to  Pierre 
to  return  for  a  moment  to  the  Hospital  of  Our  Lady  of  Dolours 
before  going  to  bed  himself.  He  had  left  Marie  in  such  a  de- 
spairing state,  so  fiercely  silent,  that  he  was  full  of  anxiety  about 
her.  And  when  he  had  asked  for  Madame  de  JonquiSre  at  the 
door  of  the  Sainte-Honorine  Ward  he  became  yet  more  anxious, 
for  the  news  was  by  no  means  good.  The  yoimg  girl,  said  the 
.Superintendent,  had  not  even  opened  her  mouth.  She  would 
/answer  nobody,  and  had  even  refused  to  eat.    Madame  de 

/  Jbnqui^re  insisted  therefore  that  Pierre  should    come  iu. 

/    True,  the  presence  of  men  was  forbidden  in  the  women's 

I    wards  at  night-time,  but  then  a  priest  is  not  a  man. 

V  '  She  only  cares  for  you  and  will  only  Usten  to  you,'  said 
ihe  worthy  lady.  '  Pray  come  in  and  sit  down  near  her  till 
Abb6  Judaine  arrives.  He  will  come  at  about  one  in  the 
morning  to  administer  the  communion  to  our  more  afflicted 
sufferers,  those  who  cannot  move  and  who  have  to  eat  at  day- 
break.   You  will  be  able  to  assist  him.' 

Pierre  thereupon  followed  Madame  de  Jonqui&re,  who 
installed  him  at  the  head  of  Marie's  bed.  '  My  dear  child,' 
she  said  to  the  girl,  '  I  have  brought  you  somebody  who  is 
very  fond  of  you.  You  will  be  able  to  chat  with  lum,  and 
you  will  be  reasonable  now,  won't  you  ? ' 

Marie,  however,  on  recognising  Pierre,  gazed  at  him  with 


an  air  of  exasperated  suffering,  a  black,  stern  expression  of 

'  Would  you  like  him  to  read  something  to  you,'  resumed 
Madame  de  Jonqui^re,  '  something  that  would  ease  and  con- 
sole you,  as  he  did  in  the  train  ?  No  ?  It  wouldn't  interest 
you,  you  don't  care  for  it  ?  Well,  we  will  see  by-and-by.  I 
will  leave  him  with  you,  and  I  am  sure  you  wiU  be  quite 
reasonable  again  in  a  few  minutes.' 

Pierre  then  began  speaking  to  her  in  a  low  voice,  saying 
all  the  kind  consoling  things  that  his  heart  could  thinl:  of, 
and  entreating  her  not  to  allow  herself  to  sink  into  such 
despair.  If  the  Blessed  Virgin  had  not  cured  her  on  the  first 
day,  it  was  because  she  reserved  her  for  some  conspicuous 
miracle.  But  he  spoke  in  vain.  Marie  had  turned  her  head 
away,  and  did, not  even  seem  to  listen  as  she  lay  there  with  a 
bitter  expression  on  her  mouth  and  a  gleam  of  irritation  in 
her  eyes  which  wandered  away  into  space.  Accordingly  he 
ceased  speaking  and  began  to  gaze  at  the  ward  around  him. 

The  spectacle  was  a  frightful  one.  Never  before  had  such 
a  nausea  of  pity  and  terror  affected  his  heart.  They  had  long 
since  dined,  nevertheless  plates  of  food  which  had  been 
brought  up  from  the  kitchens  stiU  lay  about  the  beds ;  and 
all  through  the  night  there  were  some  who  ate  whilst  others 
continued  restlessly  moaning,  asking  to  be  turned  over  or 
helped  out  of  bed.  As  the  hours  went  by  a  kind  of  vague 
delirium  seemed  to  come  upon  almost  all  of  them.  Very  few 
were  able  to  sleep  quietly.  Some  had  been  undressed  and 
were  lying  between  the  sheets,  but  the  greater  number  were 
simply  stretched  out  on  the  beds,  it  being  so  difficult  to  get 
their  clothes  off  that  they  did  not  even  change  their  linen 
during  the  five  days  of  the  pilgrimage.  In  the  semi-obscurity, 
moreover,  the  obstruction  of  the  ward  seemed  to  have  in- 
creased. To  the  fifteen  beds  ranged  along  the  walls  and  the 
seven  mattresses  filling  the  central  "space,  some  fresh  pallets 
had  been  added,  and  on  all  sides  there  was  a  confused  litter 
of  ragged  garments,  old  baskets,  boxes  and  valises.  Indeed, 
you  no  longer  knew  where  to  step.  Two  smoky  lanterns  shed 
but  a  dim  light  upon  this  encampment  of  dying  women,  in 
which  a  sickly  smell  prevailed ;  for,  instead  of  any  freshness, 
merely  the  heavy  heat  of  the  August  night  came  in  through 
the  two  windows  which  had  been  left  ajar.  Nightmare-like 
shadows  and  cries  sped  to  and  fro,  peopling  this  inferno, 
amidst  the  nocturnal  agony  of  all  the  accumulated  suffering. 



However,  Pierre  recognised  Eaymonde,  who,  her  duties  over, 
had  come  to  kiss  her  mother,  before  going  to  sleep  in  one 
of  the  garrets  reserved  to  the  Sisters  of  the  Hospital.  For  her 
own  part,  Madame  de  Jonqui^re,  taking  her  functions  to  heart," 
did  not  close  her  eyes  during  the  three  nights  spent  at  Lourdes. 
She  certainly  had  an  armchair  in  which  to  rest  herself,  but 
she  never  sat  down  in  it  for  a  moment  without  being  dis- 
turbed. It  must  be  admitted  that  she  was  bravely  seconded 
by  little  Madame  Desagneaux,  who  displayed  such  enthusiastic 
zeal  that  Sister  Hyacinthe  asked  her  with  a  smile :  '  Why 
don't  you  take  the  vows  ? '  whereupon  she  responded,  vnth  an 
air  of  scared  surprise :  '  Oh  !  I  can't,  I'm  married,  you  know, 
and  I'm  very  fond  of  my  husband.'  As  for  Madame  Volmar, 
she  had  not  even  shown  herself;  but  it  was  alleged  that 
Madame  de  Jonquiere  had  sent  her  to  bed  on  hearing  her 
complain  of  a  Rightful  headache.  And  this  had  put  Madame 
Desagneaux  in  quite  a  temper ;  for,  as  she  sensibly  enough 
remarked,  a  person  had  no  business  to  offer  to  nurse  the  sick 
when  the  slightest  exertion  exhausted  her.  She  herself,  how- 
ever, at  last  began  to  feel  her  legs  and  arms  aching,  though 
she  would  not  admit  it,  but  hastened  to  every  patient  whom 
she  heard  calling,  ever  ready  to  lend  a  helping  hand.  In 
Paris  she  would  have  rung  for  a  servant  rather  than  have 
moved  a  candlestick  herself ;  but  here  she  was  ever  coming 
and  going,  bringing  and  emptying  basins,  and  passing  her 
arms  around  patients  to  hold  them  up,  whilst  Madame  de 
Jonquiere  sHpped  pillows  behind  them.  However,  shortly 
after  eleven  o'clock,  she  was  all  at  once  overpowered.  Having 
imprudently  stretched  herself  in  the  armchair  for  a  moment's 
rest,  she  there  fell  soundly  asleep,  her  pretty  head  sinking  on 
one  of  her  shoulders  amidst  her  lovely,  wavy  fair  hair,  which 
was  all  in  disorder.  And  from  that  moment  neither  moan  nor 
call,  indeed  no  sound  whatever,  could  waken  her. 

Madame  de  Jonquiere,  however,  had  softly  approached  the 
young  priest  again.  '  I  had  an  idea,'  said  she  in  a  low  voice, 
'  of  sending  for  Monsieur  Ferrand,  the  house-surgeon,  you 
know,  who  accompanies  us.  He  would  have  given  the  poor 
girl  something  to  calm  her.  Only  he  is  busy  downstairs 
trying  to  relieve  Brother  Isidore,  in  the  Family  Ward.  Be- 
sides, as  you  know,  we  are  not  supposed  to  give  medical 
attendance  here  ;  our  work  consists  in  placing  our  dear  sick 
ones  in  the  hands  of  the  Blessed  Virgin.' 

Sister  Hyacinthe,  who  had  made  up  her  mind  to  spenc| 


the  night  ■with  the  Superintendent,  now  drew  near.  '  I  have 
just  come  from  the  Family  Ward.'  she  said  ;  '  I  went  to  take 
Monsieur  Sahathier  some  oranges  which  I  had  promised 
him,  and  I  saw  Monsieur  Ferrand,  who  had  just  succeeded  in 
reviying  Brother  Isidore.  Would  you  like  me  to  go  down  and 
fetch  him  ? ' 

But  Pierre  declined  the  ofifer.  '  No,  no,'  he  replied, '  Marie 
will  be  sensible.  I  will  read  her  a  few  consoling  pages  by-and- 
by,  and  then  she  will  rest.' 

For  the  moment,  however,  the  girl  still  remained  obsti- 
nately silent.  One  of  the  two  lanterns  was  hanging  from  the 
wall  close  by,  and  Pierre  could  distinctly  see  her  thin  face, 
rigid  and  motionless  Uke  stone.  Then,  farther  away,  in  the 
adjoining  bed,  he  perceived  Elise  Eouquet,  who  was  sound 
asleep  and  no  longer  wore  her  fichu,  but  openly  displayed 
her  face,  the  ulcerations  of  which  still  continued  to  grow 
paler.  And  on  the  young  priest's  left  hand  was  Madame 
Vetu,  now  greatly  weakened,  in  a  hopeless  state,  unable  to 
doze  off  for  a  moment,  shaken  as  she  was  by  a  continuous 
rattle.  He  said  a  few  kind  words  to  her,  for  which  she  thanked 
him  with  a  nod ;  and,  gathering  her  remaining  strength  to- 
gether, she  was  at  last  able  to  say :  '  There  were  several  cures 
to-day ;  I  was  very  pleased  to  hear  of  them.' 

On  a  mattress  at  the  foot  of  her  bed  was  La  Grivotte,  who 
in  a  fever  of  extraordinary  activity  kept  on  sitting  up  to  re- 
peat her  favourite  phrase :  '  I  am  cured.  I  am  cured.'  And 
she  went  on  to  relate  that  she  had  eaten  half  a  fowl  for  dinner, 
she  who  had  been  unable  to  eat  for  long  months  past.  Then, 
too,  she  had  followed  the  torchlight  procession  on  foot  during 
nearly  a  couple  of  hours,  and  she  would  certainly  have  danced 
till  daybreak  had  the  Blessed  Virgin  only  been  pleased  to  give 
a  ball.  And  once  more  she  repeated :  '  I  am  cured,  yes,  cured, 
quite  cured.' 

Thereupon  Madame  Vetu  found  enough  strength  to  say  with 
childlike  serenity  and  perfect,  gladsome  abnegation :  '  The 
Blessed  Virgin  did  well  to  cure  her  since  she  is  poor.  I  am 
better  pleased  than  if  it  had  been  myself,  for  I  have  my  little 
shop  to  depend  upon  and  can  wait.  We  each  have  our  turn, 
each  our  turn.' 

One  and  all  displayed  a  Uke  charity,  a  like  pleasure  that 
others  should  have  been  cured.  Seldom,  indeed,  was  any 
jealousy  shovra;  they  surrendered  themselves  to  a  kind  of 
epidemical  beatitude,  to  a  contagious  hope  that  they  would  all 


be  cured  whenever  it  should  so  please  the  Blessed  Virgin. 
And  it  was  necessary  that  she  should  not  be  offended  by  any 
undue  impatience ;  for  assuredly  she  had  her  reasons  and 
knew  right  weU.  why  she  began  by  healing  some  rather  than 
others.  Thus,  with  the  fraternity  born  of  common  suffering 
and  hope,  the  most  grievously  afllicted  patients  prayed  for  the 
cure  of  their  neighbours.  None  of  them  ever  despaired,  each 
fresh  miracle  was  the  promise  of  another  one,  of  the  one 
which  would  be  worked  on  themselves.  Their  faith  remained 
nnshakeable.  A  story  was  told  of  a  paralytic  woman,  some 
farm  servant,  who  with  extraordinary  strength  of  will  had 
contrived  to  take  a  few  steps  at  the  Grotto,  and  who  while 
being  conveyed  back  to  the  Hospital  had  asked  to  be  set  down 
that  she  might  return  to  the  Grotto  on  foot.  But  she  had 
gone  only  half  the  distance  when  she  had  staggered,  panting 
and  livid ;  and  on  being  brought  to  the  Hospital  on  a  stretcher 
she  had  died  there,  cured,  Jiowever,  said  her  neighbours  in 
the  ward.  Each,  indeed,  had  her  turn  ;  the  Blessed  Virgin 
forgot  none  of  her  dear  daughters  unless  it  were  her  design 
to  grant  some  chosen  one  immediate  admission  into  Para- 

All  at  once,  at  the  moment  when  Pierre  was  leaning 
towards  her,  again  offering  to  read  to  her,  Marie  burst  into 
furious  sobs.  Letting  her  head  fall  upon  her  friend's  shoulder, 
elie  vented  aU  her  rebellion  in  a  low,  terrible  voice,  amidst 
the  vague  shadows  of  that  awful  room.  She  had  experienced 
what  seldom  happened  to  her,  a  collapse  of  faith,  a  sadden 
loss  of  courage,  all  the  rage  of  the  suffering  being  who  can  no 
longer  wait.  Such  was  her  despair,  indeed,  that  she  even 
became  sacrilegious. 

'No,  no,'  she  stammered,  'the  Virgin  is  cruel;  she  is 
unjust,  for  she  did  not  cure  me  just  now.  Yet  I  felt  so  cer- 
tain that  she  would  grant  my  prayer,  I  had  prayed  to  her  so 
fervently.  I  shall  never  be  cured,  now  that  the  first  day  is 
past.  It  was  a  Saturday,  and  I  was  convinced  that  I  should 
be  cured  on  a  Saturday.  I  did  not  want  to  speak — and  oh  I 
prevent  me,  for  my  heart  is  too  full,  and  I  might  say  more 
than  I  ought  to  do.' 

With  fraternal  hands  he  had  quickly  taken  hold  of  her 
head,  and  he  was  endeavouring  to  stifle  the  cry  of  her  rebel- 
lion. '  Be  quiet,  Marie,  I  entreat  you !  It  woiild  never  do 
for  anyone  to  hear  you — you  so  pious  I  Do  you  want  to 
scandalise  every  soul  ? ' 


^ut  in  spite  of  her  efforts  she  was  unable  to  keep  silence. 
'  I  should  stifle,  I  must  speak  out,'  she  said.  '  I  no  longer 
love  her,  no  longer  believe  in  her.  The  tales  which  are 
related  here  are  all  falsehoods  ;  there  is  nothing,  she  does  not 
even  exist,  since  she  does  not  hear  when  one  speaks  to  her, 
and  sobs.  If  you  only  knew  all  that  I  said  to  her !  Oh  !  I 
want  to  go  away  at  once.  Take  me  away,  carry  me  away  in 
your  arms,  so  that  I  may  go  and  die  in  the  street,  where  the 
passers-by,  at  least,  wiU  take  pity  on  my  sufferings ! ' 

She  was  growing  weak  again,  and  had  once  more  fallen  on 
her  back,  stammering,  talking  childishly.  '  Besides,  nobody 
loves  me,'  she  said.  '  My  father  was  not  even  there.  And 
you,  my  friend,  forsook  me.  When  I  saw  that  it  was  another 
who  was  taking  me  to  the  piscinas,  I  began  to  feel  a  chill. 
Yes,  that  chill  of  doubt  which  I  often  felt  in  Paris.  And  that 
is  at  least  certain,  I  doubted — perhaps,  indeed,  that  is  why  she 
did  not  ciure  me.  I  cannot  have  prayed  well  enough,  I  am  not 
pious  enough,  no  doubt.' 

She  was  no  longer  blaspheming,  but  seeking  for  excuses 
to  explain  the  non-intervention  of  Heaven.  However,  her  face 
retained  an  angry  expression  amidst  this  struggle  which  she 
was  waging  with  the  supreme  power,  that  power  which  she 
had  loved  so  well  and  entreated  so  fervently,  but  which  had 
not  obeyed  her.  When,  on  rare  occasions,  a  fit  of  rage  of  this 
description  broke  out  iu  the  ward,  and  the  sufferers,  lying  on 
their  beds,  rebelled  against  their  fate,  sobbing  and  lamenting, 
and  at  times  even  swearing,  the  lady-hospitallers  and  the 
Sisters,  somewhat  shocked,  would  content  themselves  with 
simply  closing  the  bed-curtains.  Grace  had  departed,  one 
must  await  its  return.  And  at  last,  sometimes  after  long 
hours,  the  rebellious  complaints  woidd  die  away,  and  peace 
would  reign  again  amidst  the  deep,  woeful  silence. 

'  Calm  yourself,  calm  yourself,  I  implore  you,'  Pierre 
gently  repeated  to  Marie,  seeing  that  a  fresh  attack  was 
coming  upon  her,  an  attack  of  doubt  in  herself,  of  fear  that 
she  was  unworthy  of  the  divine  assistance. 

Sister  Hyacinthe,  moreover,  had  again  drawn  near.  •  You 
will  not  be  able  to  take  the  sacrament  by-and-by,  my  dear 
child,'  said  she,  '  if  you  continue  in  such  a  state.  Come, 
since  we  have  given  Monsieur  I'Abb^  permission  to  read  to 
you,  why  don't  you  let  him  do  so  ?  ' 

Marie  made  a  feeble  gesture  as  though  to  say  that  she 
consented,  and  Pierre  at  once  took  out  of  the  valise  at  the  foot 


of  her  bed,  the  little  blue-covered  book  in  which  the  stoiy  of 
Bernadette  was  so  naively  related.  As  on  the  previous  night, 
however,  when  the  train  was  rolling  on,  he  did  not  confine 
himself  to  the  bald  phraseology  of  the  book,  but  began 
improvising,  relating  all  manner  of  details  in  his  own  fashion, 
in  order  to  charm  the  simple  folks  who  listened  to  him. 
Nevertheless,  with  his  reasoning,  analytical  proclivities,  he 
could  not  prevent  himself  from  secretly  re-establishing  the 
real  facts,  imparting,  for  himself  alone,  a  human  character  to 
this  legend,  whose  wealth  of  prodigies  contributed  so  greatly 
to  the  cure  of  those  that  suffered.  Women  were  soon  sitting 
up  on  all  the  surrounding  beds.  They  wished  to  hear  the  con- 
tinuation of  the  story,  for  the  thought  of  the  sacrament 
which  they  were  passionately  awaiting  had  prevented  almost 
all  of  them  from  getting  to  sleep.  And  seated  there,  in  the 
pale  light  of  the  lantern  hanging  from  the  wall  above  him, 
Pierre  little  by  httle  raised  his  voice,  so  that  he  might  be 
heard  by  the  whole  ward. 

'  The  persecutions  began  with  the  very  first  miracles. 
Called  a  liar  and  a  lunatic,  Bernadette  was  threatened  with 
imprisonment.  Abbe  Peyramale,  the  parish  priest  of  Lourdes, 
and  Monseigneur  Laurence,  Bishop  of  Tarbes,  like  the  rest  of 
the  clergy,  refrained  from  all  intervention,  waiting  the  course 
of  events  with  the  greatest  prudence  ;  whilst  the  civil  autho- 
rities, the  Prefect,  the  Public  Prosecutor,  the  Mayor,  and  the 
Commissary  of  Police,  indulged  in  excessive  anti-reUgious  zeal.' 

Continuing  his  perusal  in  this  fashion,  Pierre  saw  the  real 
story  rise  up  before  him  with  invincible  force.  His  mind 
travelled  a  short  distance  backward  and  he  beheld  Bernadette 
at  the  time  of  the  first  apparitions,  so  candid,  so  charming 
in  her  ignorance  and  good  faith,  amidst  all  her  sufferings. 
And  she  was  truly  the  visionary,  the  saint,  her  face  assuming 
an  expression  of  superhuman  beauty  during  her  crises  of 
'efcstasy.  Her  brow  beamed,  her  features  seemed  to  ascend, 
her  eyes  were  bathed  with  light,  whilst  her  parted  lips  burnt 
with  divine  love.  And  then  her  whole  person  became  ma- 
jestic ;  it  was  in  a  slow,  stately  way  that  she  made  the  sign 
of  the  cross,  with  gestures  which  seemed  to  embrace  the 
\whole  horizon.  The  neighbouring  valleys,  the  villages,  the 
towns,  spoke  of  Bernadette  alone.  Although  the  Lady  had 
not  yet  told  her  name,  she  was  recognised,  and  people  said, 
'  It  is  she,  the  Blessed  Virgin.'  On  the  first  market-day,  so 
many  people  flocked  into  Lourdes  that  the  town  quite  over- 


flowed.  All  wished  to  see  the  blessed  child  whom  the  Queen 
of  the  Angels  had  chosen,  and  who  became  so  beautiful  when 
the  heavens  opened  to  her  enraptured  gaze.  The  crowd  on 
the  banks  of  the  Gave  grew  larger  each  morning,  and 
thousands  of  people  ended  by  installing  themselves  there, 
jostling  one  another  that  they  might  lose  nothing  of  the 
spectacle !  As  soon  as  Bernadette  appeared,  a  murmur  of 
fervour  spread :  '  Here  is  the  saint,  the  saint,  the  saint ! ' 
Folks  rushed  forward  to  kiss  her  garments.  She  was  a 
Messiah,  the  eternal  Messiah  whom  the  nations  await,  and  the 
need  of  whom  is  ever  arising  from  generation  to  generation. 
And,  moreover,  it  was  ever  the  same  adventure  beginning 
afresh  :  an  apparition  of  the  Virgin  to  a  shepherdess  ;  a  voice 
exhorting  the  world  to  penitence ;  a  spring  gushing  forth ; 
and  miracles  astonishing  and  enrapturing  the  crowds  that 
hastened  to  the  spot  in  larger  and  larger  numbers. 

Ah  !  those  first  miracles  of  Lourdes,  what  a  springtide 
flowering  of  consolation  and  hope  they  brought  to  the  hearts 
of  the  wretched,  upon  whom  poverty  and  sickness  were  prey- 
ing I  Old  Bourriette's  restored  eyesight,  little  Bouhohort'a 
resuscitation  in  the  icy  water,  the  deaf  recovering  their  hear- 
ing, the  lame  suddenly  enabled  to  walk,  and  so  many  other 
cases,  Blaise  Maumus,  Bernade  Soubies,*' Auguste  Bordes, 
Blaisette  Soupenne,  Benoite  Cazeaux,  in  turn  cured  of  the 
most  dreadful  ailments,  became  the  subject  of  endless  con- 
versations, and  fanned  the  illusions  of  all  those  who  suffered 
either  in  their  hearts  or  their  flesh.  On  Thursday,  March  4, 
the  last  day  of  the  fifteen  visits  solicited  by  the  Virgin,  there 
were  more  than  twenty  thousand  persons  assembled  before  the 
Grotto.  Everybody,  indeed,  had  come  down  from  the  moun- 
tains. And  this  immense  throng  found  at  the  Grotto  the 
divine  food  that  it  hungered  for,  a  feast  of  the  Marvellous,  a 
sufficient  meed  of  the  Impossible  to  content  its  behef  in  a 
superior  power,  which  deigned  to  bestow  some  attention  upon 
poor  folks,  and  to  intervene  in  the  wretched  affairs  of  this 
lower  world,  in  order  to  re-establish  some  measure  of  justice 
and  kindness.  It  was,  indeed,  the  cry  of  heavenly  charity 
bursting  forth,  the  invisible  helping  hand  stretched  out  at  last 
to  dress  the  eternal  sores  of  humanity.    Ah  1  that  dream  in 

•  I  give  this  name  as  written  by  M.  Zola ;  but  in  other  works  on 
TJourdes  I  find  it  given  as  '  Bernarde  Loubie— a  bed-ridden  old  woman, 
cured  of  a,  paralytic  affection  by  drinking  the  water  of  the  Grotto.' — Trans, 


which  each  successive  generation  sought  refuge,  with  what 
indestructible  energy  did  it  not  arise  among  the  disinherited 
ones  of  this  world  as  soon  as  it  found  a  favourable  spot,  pre- 
pared by  circumstances  1-  And  for  centuries,  perhaps,  circum- 
stances had  never  so  combined  to  kindle  the  mystical  fire  of 
faith  as  they  did  at  Lourdes. 

A  new  religion  was  about  to  be  founded,  and  persecutions 
M  once  began,  for  religions  only  spring  up  amidst  vexations 
/and  rebellions.  And  even  as  it  was  long  ago  at  Jerusalem, 
when  the  tidings  of  mu-acles  spread,  the  civil  authorities — the 
Public  Prosecutor,  the  Justice  of  the  Peace,  the  Mayor,  and 
particularly  the  Prefect  of  Tarbes — were  all  roused  and  began 
to  bestir  themselves.  The  Prefect  was  a  sincere  Cathohc,  a 
worshipper,  a  man  of  perfect  honour,  but  he  also  had  the 
firm  mind  of  a  public  functionary,  was  a  passionate  defender 
of  order,  and  a  declared  adversary  of  fanaticism  which  gives 
birth  to  disorder  and  rehgious  perversion.  Under  his  orders 
at  Lourdes  there  was  a  Commissary  of  Police,  a  man  of  great 
intelligence  and  shrewdness,  who  had  hitherto  discharged  his 
functions  in  a  very  proper  way,  and  who,  legitimately  enough, 
beheld  in  this  affair  of  the  apparitions  an  opportunity  to  put 
his  gift  of  sagacious  skiU.  to  the  proof.  So  the  struggle  began, 
and  it  was  this  Commissary  who,  on  the  first  Sunday  in  Lent, 
at  the  time  of  the  first  apparitions,  summoned  Bernadette  to 
his  office  in  order  that  he  might  question  her.  He  showed 
himself  affectionate,  then  angry,  then  threatening,  but  aU  in 
vain ;  the  answers  which  the  girl  gave  him  were  ever  the 
same.  The  story  which  she  related,  with  its  slowly  accumu- 
lated details,  had  little  by  httle  irrevocably  implanted  itself 
in  her  infantile  mind.  And  it  was  no  lie  on  the  part  of  this 
poor  suffering  creature,  this  exceptional  ■yiotimjjfJiysteria,  but 
an  imconscious  haunting,  a  radical  lack  of  will-power  to  free 
herself  from  her  original  hallucination.  She  knew  not  how 
to  exert  any  such  will,  she  could  not,  she  would  not  exert  it. 
Ah  !  the  poor  child,  the  dear  child,  so  amiable  and  so  gentle, 
so  incapable  of  any  evil  thought,  from  that  time  forward  lost 
to  hfe,  crucified  by  her  fixed  idea,  whence  one  could  only  have 
extricated  her  by  changing  her  environment,  by  restoring  her 
to  the  open  air,  in  some  land  of  dayhght  and  human  affection. 
But  she  was  the  chosen  one,  she  had  beheld  the  Virgin,  she 
would  suffer  from  it  her  whole  Ufe  long,  and  die  from  it  at 

Pierre,  who  knew  Bernadette  so  well,  and  who  felt  a  fra- 


ternal  pity  for  her  memory,  the  fervent  compassion  with  which 
one  regards  a  human  saint,  a  simple,  upright,  charming 
creature  tortured  by  her  faith,  allowed  Ms"  emotion  to  appear 
in  his  moist  eyes  and  trembling  voice.  And  a  pause  in  his 
narrative  ensued.  Marie,  who  had  hitherto  been  lying  there 
quite  stiff,  with  a  hard  expression  of  revolt  still  upon  her  face, 
opened  her  clenched  hands  and  made  a  vague  gesture  of  pity. 

■  '  Ah,'  she  murmured,  '  the  poor  chUd,  all  alone  to  contend 
against  those  magistrates,  and  so  innocent,  so  proud,  so 
unshakeable  in  her  championship  of  the  truth  1 ' 

The  same  compassionate  sj^mpathy  was  arising  from  all 
the  beds  in  the  ward.  That  hospital  inferno,  with  its  nocturnal 
wretchedness,  its  pestilential  atmosphere,  its  pallets  of  anguish 
heaped  together;  its  weary  lady-hospitallers  and  Sisters  flitting 
phantom-hke  hither  and  thither,  now  seemed  to  be  illumined 
by  a  ray  of  divine  charity.  Was  not  the  eternal  illusion  of 
happiness  rising  once  more  amidst  tears  and  unconscious 
falsehoods  ?  Poor,  poor  Bemadette !  All  waxed  indignant 
at  the  thought  of  the  persecutions  which  she  had  endured  in 
defence  of  her  faith. 

Then  Pierre,  resuming  his  story,  related  all  that  the  child 
had  had  to  suffer.  After  being  questioned  by  the  Commissary 
she  had  to  appear  before  the  judges  of  the  local  tribunal. 
The  entire  magistracy  pursued  her,  and  endeavoured  to  wring 
a  retractation  from  her.  But  the  obstinacy  of-her  dream  was 
stronger  than  the  common  sense  of  all  the  civil  authorities 
put  together.  Two  doctors  who  were  sent  by  the  Prefect  to 
'  make  a  careful  examination  of  the  girl  came,  like  all  doctors 
would  have  done,  to  the  honest  opinion  that  it  was  a  case  of 
/nervous  trouble,  of  which  the  asthma  was  a  sure  sign,  and 

/  which,  in  certain  circumstances,  might  have  induced  visions. 

;  /    This  nearly  led  to  her  removal  and  confinement  in  a  hospital 

;^  ^    at  Tarbes.    But  public  exasperation  was  feared.    A  bishop 

"had  fallen  on  his  knees  before  her.    Some  ladies  had  sought 

to  buy  favours  from  her  for  gold.    Moreover  she  had  found  a 

refuge  with  the  Sisters  of  Nevers,  who  tended  the  aged  in  the 

town  asylum,  and  there  she  made  her  first  communion,  and 

was  with  difficulty  taught  to  read  and  write.    As  the  Blessed 

Virgin    seemed    to    have  chosen    her    solely   to   work  the 

happiness  of  others,  and  she  herself  had  not  been  cured, 

it  was  very  sensibly  decided  to  take  her  to  the  baths  of 

Cauterots,  which  were  so  near  at  hand.    However,  they  did 

her  no  good.    And  no  sooner  had  she  returned  to  Lcurdea 


than  the  torture  of  being  questioned  and  adored  by  a  whole 
people  began  afresh,  became  aggravated,  and  filled  her  mora 
and  more  with  horror  of  the  world.  Her  life  was  over  already ; 
ehe  would  be  a  playful  child  no  more ;  she  could  never  be  a 
young  girl  dreaming  of  a  husband,  a  young  wife  kissing  the 
cheeks  of  sturdy  children.  She  had  beheld  the  Virgin,  she 
was  the  chosen  one,  the  martyr.  If  the  Virgin,  said  believers, 
had  confided  three  secrets  to  her,  investing  her  with  a  triple 
armour  as  it  were,  it  was  simply  in  order  to  sustain  her  in  her 
appointed  course. 

The  clergy  had  for  a  long  time  remained  aloof,  on  its  own 
side  full  of  doubt  and  anxiety.  Abb^  Feyramale,  the  parish 
priest  of  Lourdes,  was  a  man  of  somewhat  blunt  ways,  but 
full  of  infinite  kindness,  rectitude,  and  energy  whenever  he 
found  himself  in  what  he  thought  the  right  path.  On  the 
first  occasion  when  Bemadette  visited  him,  he  received  this 
child  who  had  been  brought  up  at  Bartr^s  and  had  not  yet 
been  seen  at  Catechism,  almost  as  sternly  as  the  Commissary 
of  Police  had  done ;  in  fact,  he  refused  to  believe  her  story, 
and  with  some  irony  told  her  to  entreat  the  Lady  to  begin  by 
making  the  eglantine  blossom  beneath  her  feet,  which,  by  the 
way,  the  Lady  never  did.  And  if  the  Abb6  ended  by  taking 
the  child  under  his  protection  like  a  good  pastor  who  defends 
his  flock,  it  was  simply  through  the  advent  of  persecution  and 
tjhe  talk  of  imprisoning  this  puny  child,  whose  clear  eyes  shone 
/feo  frankly,  and  who  clung  with  such  modest,  gentle  stubborn- 
/  ness  to  her  original  tale.  Besides,  why  should  he  have  con- 
tinued denying  the  miracle  after  merely  doubting  it  like  a 
prudent  priest  who  had  no  desire  to  see  religion  mixed  up  in 
any  suspicious  affair?  Holy  Writ  is  full  of  prodigies,  all 
dogma  is  based  on  the  mysterious ;  and  that  being  so,  there 
was  nothing  to  prevent  him,  a  priest,  from  believing  that  the 
Virgin  had  really  entrusted  Bemadette  vdth  a  pious  message 
for  him,  an  injunction  to  build  a  church  whither  the  faithful 
would  repair  in  procession.  Thus  it  was  that  he  began  loving 
\and  defending  Bemadette  for  her  charm's  sake,  whilst  still 
sfraining  from  active  interference,  awaiting  as  he  did  the 
d^ision  of  his  Bishop. 

^;his  Bishop,  Monseigneur  Laurence,  seemed  to  have  shut 
himseU  up  in  his  episcopal  residence  at  Tarbes,  locking  him- 
self within  it  and  preserving  absolute  silence  as  though  there 
were  nothing  occurring  at  Lourdes  of  a  nature  to  interest 
him.    He  had  given  strict  instructions  to  his  clergy,  and  go 


far  not  a  priest  had  appeared  among  tlie  vast  crowds  of 
people  who  spent  their  days  hefore  the  Grotto.  He  waited, 
and  even  allowed  the  Prefect  to  state  in  his  administrative 
circulars  that  the  civil  and  the  religious  authorities  were  act- 
ing in  concert.  In  reality,  he  cannot  have  helieved  in  the  ap- 
paritions of  the  Grotto  of  Massabielle,  which  he  doubtless  con- 
sidered to  be  the  mere  hallucinations  of  a  sick  child.  This 
affair,  which  was  revolutionising  the  region,  was  of  sufficient 
Importance  for  him  to  have  had  it  studied  day  by  day,  and 
the  manner  in  which  he  disregarded  it  for  so  long  a  time  shows 
how  little  inclined  he  was  to  admit  the  truth  of  the  alleged 
miracles,  and  how  greatly  he  desired  to  avoid  compromising 
the  Church  in  a  matter  which  seemed  destined  to  end  badly. 
With  all  his  piety,  Monseigneur  Laurence  had  a  cool,  prac- 
tical intellect,  which  enabled  him  to  govern  his  diocese  with 
great  good  sense.  Impatient  and  ardent  people  nicknamed 
him  Saint  Thomas  at  the  time,  on  account  of  the  manner  in 
which  his  doubts  persisted  until  events  at  last  forced  his  hand. 
Indeed,  he  turned  a  deaf  ear  to  all  the  stories  that  were  being 
related,  firmly  resolved  as  he  was  that  he  would  only  listen  to 
them  if  it  should  appear  certain  that  religion  had  nothing  to 

However,  the  persecutions  were  about  to  become  more  pro- 
nounced. The  Minister  of  Worship  in  Paris,  who  had  been 
informed  of  what  was  going  on,  required  that  a  stop  should 
be  put  to  all  disorders,  and  so  the  Prefect  caused  the  ap- 
proaches to  the  Grotto  to  be  occupied  by  the  military.  The 
Grotto  had  already  been  decorated  with  vases  of  flowers 
offered  by  the  zeal  of  the  faithful  and  the  gratitude  of  suf- 
ferers who  had  been  healed.  Money,  moreover,  was  thrown 
into  it ;  gifts  to  the  Blessed  Virgin  abounded.  Rudimentary 
improvements,  too,  were  carried  out  in  a  spontaneous  way ; 
some  quarrymen  out  a  kind  of  reservoir  to  receive  the  miracu- 
lous water,  and  others  removed  the  large  blocks  of  stone,  and 
traced  a  path  in  the  hiUside.  However,  in  presence  of  the  swell- 
ing torrents  of  people,  the  Prefect,  after  renouncing  his  idea  of 
arresting  Bemadette,  took  the  serious  resolution  of  preventing 
all  access  to  the  Grotto  by  placing  a  strong  palisade  in  front 
of  it.  Some  regrettable  incidents  had  lately  occurred ;  various 
children  pretended  that  they  had  seen  the  devU,  some  of  them 
being  guUty  of  simulation  in  this  respect,  whilst  others  had 
given  way  to  real  attacks  of  hysteria,  in  the  contagious  ner- 
yous  unhinging  which  was  so  prevalent.    But  what  a  terrible 

190  LbURDES 

business  did  the  removal  of  the  offerings  from  the  Grotto 
prove !  It  was  only  towards  evening  that  the  Commissary! 
was  able  to  find  a  girl  willing  to  let  him  have  a  cart  on  hire, 
and  two  hours  later  this  girl  fell  from  a  loft  and  broke  one  of 
her  ribs.  In  the  same  way,  a  man  who  had  lent  an  axe  had 
one  of  his  feet  crushed  on  the  morrow  by  the  fall  of  a  block 
of  stone.*  It  was  in  the  midst  of  jeers  and  hisses  that  the 
Coihmissary  carried  off  the  pots  of  flowers,  the  tapers  which 
he  found  burning,  the  coppers  and  the  silver  hearts  which 
lay  upon  the  sand.  People  clenched  their  fists,  and  covertly 
called  him  '  thief '  and  '  murderer.'  Then  the  posts  for  the 
palisades  were  planted  in  the  ground,  and  the  rails  were 
nailed  to  the  crossbars,  no  httle  labour  being  performed  in 
order  to  shut  off  the  Mystery,  in  order  to  bar  access  to  the 
Unknown,  and  put  the  miracles  in  prison.  And  the  civil 
authorities  were  simple  enough  to  imagine  that  it  was  all 
over,  that  those  few  bits  of  boarding  would  suffice  to  stay  the 
poor  people  who  hungered  for  illusion  and  hope. 

But  as  soon  as  the  new  rehgion  was  proscribed,  forbidden 
by  the  law  as  an  offence,  it  began  to  bum  with  an  inextin- 
guishable flame  in  the  depths  of  every  soul.  The  believers 
came  to  the  river  bank  in  far  greater  numbers,  fell  upon 
their  knees  at  a  short  distance  from  the  Grotto,  and  sobbed 
aloud  as  they  gazed  at  the  forbidden  heaven.  And  the  sick, 
the  poor  ailing  folks,  who  were  forbidden  to  seek  cure,  rushed 
on  the  Grotto  despite  all  prohibitions,  slipped  in  wherever 
they  could  find  an  aperture  or  climbed  over  the  palings  when 
their  strength  enabled  them  to  do  so,  in  the  one  ardent  desire 
to  steal  a  little  of  the  water.  "What !  there  was  a  prodigious 
water  in  that  Grotto,  which  restored  the  sight  of  the  blind, 
which  set  the  infirm  erect  upon  their  legs  again,  which 
instantaneously  healed  all  ailments ;  and  there  were  officials 
cruel  enough  to  put  that  water  under  lock  and  key  so  that  it 
might  not  cure  any  more  poor  people !  Why,  it  was  mon-' 
strous  1  And  a  cry  of  hatred  arose  from  aU  the  humble  ones,' 
all  the  disinherited  ones  who  had  as  much  need  of  the 
Marvellous  as  of  bread  to  live  1  In  accordance  with  a  muni- 
cipal decree,  the  names  of  all  delinquents  were  to  be  taken  by 
the  police,  and  thus  one  soon  beheld  a  woeful  A&fiU  of  old 
women  and  lame  men  summoned  before  the  Justice  of  the 
Peace  for  the  sole  offence  of  taking  a  little  water  from  the 

•  Both  of  these  accidents  were  interpreted  as  miracles. — Tram. 


fount  of  life !  They  stammered  and  entreated,  at  their  wit's 
end  when  a  fine  was  imposed  upon  them.  And,  outside,  the 
crowd  was  growling ;  rageful  unpopularity  was  gathering 
around  those  magistrates  who  treated  human  wretchedness  so 
harshly,  those  pitiless  masters  who  after  taking  all  the  wealth 
of  the  world,  would  not  even  leave  to  the  poor  their  dream  of 
the  realms  beyond,  their  belief  that  a  beneficent  superior 
power  took  a  maternal  interest  in  them,  and  was  ready  to 
endow  them  with  peace  of  soul  and  health  of  body.  One  day 
a  whole  band  of  poverty-stricken  and  aiHng  folks  went  to  the 
Mayor,  knelt  down  in  his  courtyard,  and  implored  him  with 
sobs  to  allow  the  Grotto  to  be  reopened ;  and  the  words  they 
spoke  were  so  pitiful  that  all  who  heard  them  wept.  A 
mother  showed  her  child  who  was  half  dead ;  would  they  let 
the  little  one  die  like  that  in  her  arms  when  there  was  a 
source  yonder  which  had  saved  the  children  of  other  mothers  ? 
A  blind  man  called  attention  to  his  dim  eyes ;  a  pale,  scro- 
fulous youth  displayed  the  sores  on  his  legs ;  a  paralytic 
woman  sought  to  join  her  woeful  twisted  hands :  did  the 
authorities  wish  to  see  them  all  perish,  did  they  refuse  them 
the  last  divine  chance  of  life,  condemned  and  abandoned  as 
they  were  by  the  science  of  man  ?  And  equally  great  was  the 
distress  of  the  believers,  of  those  who  were  convinced  that  a 
corner  of  Heaven  had  opened  amidst  the  night  of  their  mourn- 
ful existences,  and  who  were  indignant  that  they  should  be 
deprived  of  the  chimerical  delight,  the  supreme  relief  for 
their  human  and  social  sufferings,  which  they  found  in  the 
belief  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  had  indeed  come  down  from 
Heaven  to  bring  them  the  priceless  balm  of  her  intervention. 
However,  the  Mayor  was  unable  to  promise  anything,  and 
the  crowd  withdrew  weeping,  ready  for  rebellion,  as  though 
under  the  blow  of  some  great  act  of  injustice,  an  act  of  idiotic 
cruelty  towards  the  humble  and  the  simple  for  which  Heaven 
would  assuredly  take  vengeance. 

The  struggle  went  on  for  several  months ;  and  it  was  an 
extraordinary  spectacle  which  these  sensible  men  —  the 
Minister,  the  Prefect,  and  the  Commissary  of  Police — 
presented,  all  animated  with  the  best  intentions  and  contend- 
ing against  the  ever  sv/elling  crowd  of  despairing  ones,  who 
would  not  allow  the  doors  of  dreamland  to  be  closed  upon 
them,  who  would  not  be'  shut  off  from  the  mystic  glimpse  of 
future  happiness  in  which  they  found  consolation  ^  their 
present  wretchedness.    The  authorities  required  order,  the 


respect  of  a  discreet  religion,  the  triumpli  of  reason ;  WhfereaS 
the  need  of  happiness  carried  the  people  off  into  an  enthu- 
siastic desire  for  cure  both  in  this  world  and  in  the  next.  Oh  ! 
to  cease  suffering,  to  secure  equality  in  the  comforts  of  life ; 
to  march  on  under  the  protection  of  a  just  and  beneficent 
Mother,  to  die  only  to  awaken  in  heaven  !  And  necessarily 
the  burning  desire  of  the  multitude,  the  holy  madness  of  the 
universal  joy,  was  destined  to  sweep  aside  the  rigid,  morose 
conceptions  of  a  well-regulated  society  in  which  the  ever- 
recurring  epidemical  attacks  of  religious  hallucination  are 
condemned  as  prejudicial  to  good  order  and  healthiness  of 

The  Sainte-Honorine  Ward,  on  hearing  the  story,  Hkewise 
revolted.  Pierre  again  had  to  pause,  for  many  were  the 
stifled  exclamations  in  which  the  Commissary  of  Police  was 
likened  to  Satan  and  Herod.  La  Grivotte  had  sat  up  on  her 
mattress,  stammering  :  '  Ah  !  the  monsters  !  To*  behave 
like  that  to  the  Blessed  Virgin  who  has  cured  me  ! ' 

And  even  Madame  Vetu — once  more  penetrated  by  a  ray 
ol  hope  amidst  the  covert  certainty  she  felt  that  she  was 
going  to  die — grew  angry  at  the  idea  that  the  Grotto  would 
not  have  existed  had  the  Prefect  won  the  day.  '  There 
would  have  been  no  pilgrimages,'  she  said,  '  we  should  not  be 
here,  hundreds  of  us  would  not  be  cured  every  year.' 

A  fit  of  stifling  came  over  her,  however,  and  Sister  Hya- 
cinthe  had  to  raise  her  to  a  sitting  posture.  Madame  de 
Jonqui^re  was  profiting  by  the  interruption  to  attend  to  a 
young  woman  afflicted  with  a  spinal  complaint,  whUst  two 
other  women,  unable  to  remain  on  their  beds,  so  unbearable 
was  the  heat,  prowled  about  with  short,  silent  steps,  looking 
quite  white  in  the  misty  darkness.  And  from  the  far  end  of 
the  ward,  where  all  was  black,  there  resounded  a  noise  of 
painful  breathing,  which  had  been  going  on  without  a  pause, 
accompanying  Pierre's  narrative  like  a  rattle.  Ehse  Eouquet 
alone  was  sleeping  peacefully,  stUl  stretched  upon  her  back,  and 
displaying  her  disfigured  countenance,  which  was  slowly  drying. 

Midnight  had  struck  a  quarter  of  an  hour  previously,  and 
Abb6  Judaine  might  arrive  at  any  moment  for  the  communion. 
Grace  was  now  again  descending  into_  Marie's  heart,  and  she 
was  convinced  that  if  the  Blessed  Virgin  had  refused  to  cure 
her  it  was,  indeed,  her  own  fault  in  having  doubted  when 
she  entered  the  piscina.  And  she,  therefore,  repented  of 
her  rebellion  as  of  a  crime.   Could  she  ever  be  forgiven  ?  Her 


pale  face  sank  down  among  her  beautiful  fair  hair,  her  eyes 
filled  with  tears,  and  she  looked  at  Pierre  with  an  expression 
of  anguish.  '  Oh  I  how  wicked  I  was,  my  friend,'  she  said. 
'It  was  through  hearing  you  relate  how  that  Prefect  and 
those  magistrates  sinned  through  pride,  that  I  understood  my 
transgression.  One  must  believe,  my  friend;  there  is  no 
happiness  outside  faith  and  love.' 

Then,  as  Pierre  wished  to  break  off  at  the  point  which  ha 
had  reached,  they  aU  began  protesting  and  calling  for  the  con- 
tinuation of  his  narrative,  so  that  he  had  to  promise  to  go  on 
to  the  triumph  of  the  Grotto. 

Its  entrance  remained  barred  by  the  palisade,  and  you  had 
to  come  secretly  at  night  if  you  wished  to  pray  and  carry 
off  a  stolen  bottle  of  water.  Still,  the  fear  of  rioting  increased, 
for  it  was  rumoured  that  whole  villages  intended  to  come 
down  from  the  hiUs  in  order  to  deliver  God,  as  they  naively 
expressed  it.  It  was  a  leoie  en  masse  of  the  humble,  a  rush 
of  those  who  hungered  for  the  miraculous,  so  irresistible  in 
its  impetuosity  that  mere  common  sense,  mere  considerations 
of  public  order  were  to  be  swept  away  like  chaff.  And  it  was 
Monseigneur  Laurence,  in  his  episcopal  residence  at  Tarbes, 
who  was  first  forced  to  surrender.  AU  his  prudence,  aU  his 
doubts  were  outflanked  by  the  popular  outburst.  For  five 
long  months  he  had  been  able  to  remain  aloof,  preventing  his 
clergy  from  following  the  faithful  to  the  Grotto,  and  defending 
the  Church  against  the  tornado  of  superstition  which  had  been 
let  loose.  But  what  was  the  use  of  .struggling  any  longer? 
He  felt  the  wretchedness  of  the  suffering  people  committed  to 
his  care  to  be  so  great  that  he  resigned  himself  to  granting 
them  the  idolatrous  religion  for  which  he  realised  them  to  be 
eager.  .  Some  prudence  remaining  to  him,  however,  he  con- 
tented himself  in  the  first  instance  with  drawing  up  an  ordon- 
nance,  appointing  a  commission  of  inquiry,  which  was  to 
investigate  the  question  ;  this  implied  the  acceptance  of  the 
miracles  after  a  period  of  longer  or  shorter  duration.  If  Mon- 
seigneur Laurence  was  the  man  of  healthy  culture  and  cool 
reason  that  he  is  pictured  to  have  been,  how  great  must  have 
been  his  anguish  on  the  morning  when  he  signed  that 
ordonnaiiCB  !  He  must  have  knelt  in  his  oratory,  and 
have  begged  the  Sovereign  Master  of  the  world  to  dictate 
his  conduct  to  him.  He  did  not  believe  in  the  appari- 
tions ;  he  had  a  loftier,  more  intellectual  idea  of  the  mani- 
festations of  the  Divinity.    Only,  would  he  not  be  showing 



true  pity  and  mercy  in  silencing  the  scruples  of  his  reason, 
the  noble  prejudices  of  his  faith,  in  presence  of  the  necessity 
of  granting  that  bread  of  falsehood  which  poor  humanity 
requires  in  order  to  be  happy  ?  Doubtless,  he  begged  the 
pardon  of  Heaven  for  allowing  it  to  be  mixed  up  in  what  he 
regarded  as  childish  pastime,  for  exposing  it  to  ridicule  in  con- 
nection with  an  affair  in  which  there  was  only  sickliness  and 
dementia.  But  his  flock  suffered  so  much,  hungered  so 
ravenously  for  the  marvellous,  for  fairy  stories  with  which  to 
lull  the  pains  of  life.  And  thus,  in  tears,  the  Bishop  at  last 
sacrificed  his  respect  for  the  dignity  of  Providence  to  his 
sensitive  pastoral  charity_  for  the  woeful  human  flock. 

Then  the  Emperor  in  his  turn  gave  way.  He  was  at 
Biarritz  at  the  time,  and  was  kept  regularly  informed  of 
everything  connected  with  this  affair  of  the  apparitions, 
with  which  the  entire  Parisian  press  was  also  occupying 
itself,  for  the  persecutions  would  not  have  been  complete 
if  the  pens  of  Voltairean  newspaper-men  had  not  meddled 
in  them.  And  whilst  his  Minister,  his  Prefect,  and  his  Com- 
missary of  Police  were  fighting  for  common  sense  and  pubUc 
order,  the  Emperor  preserved  his  wonted  sUence — the  deep 
silence  of  a  day-dreamer  which  nobody  ever  penetrated. 
Petitions  arrived  day  by  day,  yet  he  held  his  tongue.  Bishops 
came,  great  personages,  great  ladies  of  his  circle  watched 
and  drew  him  on  one  side,  and  still  he  held  his  tongue.'  A 
truceless  warfare  was  being  waged  around  him ;  on  one  side  the 
believers  and  the  men  of  fanciful  minds  whom  the  Mysterious 
strongly  interested ;  on  the  other  the  imbelievers  and  the 
statesmen  who  distrusted  the  disturbances  of  the  imagination ; 
and  stiU  and  ever  he  held  his  tongue.  Then,  all  at  once,  with 
the  sudden  decision  of  a  naturally  timid  man,  he  spoke  out. 
The  rumour  spread  that  he  had  yielded  to  the  entreaties  of 
his  wife  Buglnie.  No  doubt  she  did  intervene,  but  the 
Emperor  was  more  deeply  influenced  by  a  revival  of  his  old 
humanitarian  dreams,  his  genuine  compassion  for  the  disin- 
herited.* Like  the  Bishop,  he  did  not  wish  to  close  the  portals 
of  illusion  to  the  wretched  by  upholding  the  unpopular  decree 
which  forbade  despairing  sufferers  to  go  and  drink  life  at  the 

*  I  think  this  view  of  the  matter  the  right  one,  for  as  all  who  know 
the  history  of  the  Second  Empire  are  aware,  it  was  about  this  time  that 
the  Emperor  began  to  take  great  interest  in  erecting  model  dwellings  for 
the  working  classes,  and  in  planting  and  transforming  the  sandy  wastes 
of  the  Landes.— 2Va»M. 


holy  source.  So  he  sent  a  telegram,  a  curt  order  to  remove 
the  palisade,  so  as  to  allow  everybody  free  access  to  the  Grotto. 
Then  came  a  shout  of  joy  and  triumph.  The  decree 
annulling  the  previous  one  was  read  at  Lourdes  to  the  sound 
of  drum  and  trumpet.  The  Commissary  of  Police  had  to 
come  in  person  to  superintend  the  removal  of  the  palisade. 
He  was  afterwards  transferred  elsewhere,  Hke  the  Prefect.* 
People  flocked  to  Lourdes  from  all  parts,  the  neW,  cultus 
was  organised  at  the  Grotto,  and  a  cry  of  joy  ascended : 
-God  had  won  the  victory!     God?  alas  no!    It  was  human 

f  wretchedness  which  had  won  the  battle,  human  wretchedness 
with  its  eternal  need  of  falsehood,  its  hunger  for  the  mar- 
vellous, its  everlasting  hope  akin  to  that  of  some  condemned 
man  who,  for  salvation's  sake,  surrenders  himseS  into  the 
hands  of  an  invisible  Omnipotence,  mightier  than  iature,  and 
alone  capable,  should  it  be  willing,  of  annulling  nature's  laws. 

V  And  that  which  had  also  conquered  was  the  sovereign  com- 
N^assion  of  those  pastors,  the  merciful  Bishop  and  merciful 
Emperor  who  allowed  those  big  sick  children  to  retain  the  fetich 
which  consoled  some  of  them  and  at  times  even  cured  others. 
In  the  middle  of  November  the  episcopal  commission  came 
to  Lourdes  to  prosecute  the  inquiry  which  had  been  entrusted 
to  it.  It  questioned  Bemadctte  yet  once  again,  and  studied  a 
large  number  of  miracles.  However,  in  order  that  the  evidence 
might  be  absolute,  it  only  registered  some  thirty  cases  of  cure. 
Arid  Monseigneur  Laurence  declared  himself  convinced. 
Nevertheless,  he  gave  a  final  proof  of  his  prudence,  by  con- 
tinuing to  wait  another  three  years  before  declaring  in  a 
pastoral  letter  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  had  in  truth  appeared 
at  the  Grotto  of  Massabielle  and  that  numerous  miracles  had 
subsequently  taken  place  there.  Meantime,  he  had  purchased 
the  Grotto  itself,  with  all  the  land  around  it,  from  the  munici- 
pality of  Lourdes,  on  behalf  of  his  see.  Work  was  then 
begun,  modestly  at  first,  but  soon  on  a  larger  and  larger 
scale  as  money  began  to  flow  in  from  all  parts  of  Christendom. 
The  Grotto  was  cleared  and  enclosed  with  an  iron  railing. 
The  Gave  was  thrown  back  into  a  new  bed,  so  as  to  allow  of 

*  The  Prefect  was  transferred  to  Grenoble,  and  curiously  enough  hia 
new  jurisdiction  extended  over  the  hills  and  valleys  of  La  Salette,  whither 
pilgrims  likewise  flocked  to  drink,  pray,  and  wash  themselves  at  a,  miracu- 
lous fountain.  Warned  by  experience,  however.  Baron  Massy  (such  wag 
the  Prefect's  name),  was  careful  to  aToi4  any  further  interference  in 
wligiouB  matters.— 2Va7M. 



spacious  approaches  to  the  shrine,  with  lawns,  paths,  and 
walks.  At  last,  too,  the  church  which  the  Virgin  had  asked 
for,  the  Basilica,  began  to  rise  on  the  summit  of  the  rock 
itself.  From  the  very  first  stroke  of  the  pick,  Abb6  Peyramale, 
the  parish  priest  of  Lourdes,  went  on  directing  everything 
with  even  excessive  zeal,  for  the  struggle  had  made  him  the 
most  ardent  and  most  sincere  of  all  the  believers  in  the  work 
that  was  to  be  accomplished.  With  his  somewhat  rough  but 
truly  fatherly  nature,  he  had  begun  to  adore  Bernadette, 
maMng  her  mission  his  own,  and  devoting  himself,  soul  and 
body,  to  realising  the  orders  which  he  had  received  from 
Heaven  through  her  innocent  mouth.  And  he  exhausted  him- 
self in  mighty  efforts ;  he  wished  everything  to  be  very  beautiful 
and  very  grand,  worthy  of  the  Queen  of  the  Angels  who  had 
deigned  to  visit  this  mountain  nook.  The  first  religious 
ceremony  did  not  take  place  tUl  six  years  after  the  apparitions. 
A  marble  statue  of  the  Virgin  was  installed  with  great  pomp 
on  the  very  spot  where  she  had  appeared.  It  was  a  magnifi- 
cent day,  all  Lourdes  was  gay  with  flags,  and  every  bell  rang 
joyously.  Five  years  later,  in  1869,  the  first  mass  was  cele- 
brated ia  the  crypt  of  the  Basilica,  whose  spire  was  not  yet 
finished.  Meantime  gifts  flowed  in  without  a  pause,  a  river 
of  gold  was  streaming  towards  the  Grotto,  a  whole  town  was 
about  to  spring  up  from  the  soil.  It  was  the  new  religion 
completing  its  foundations.  The  desire  to  be  healed  did  heal ; 
the  thirst  for  a  miracle  worked  the  miracle.  A  deity  of  pity 
and  hope  was  evolved  from  man's  sufferings,  from  that  long- 
ing for  falsehood  and  relief,  which,  in  every  age  of  humanity, 
has  created  the  marvellous  palaces  of  the  realms  beyond,  where 
an  almighty  power  renders  justice  and  distributes  eternal 

And  thus  the  aib'ng  ones  of  the  Salnte-Honorine  Ward  only 
beheld  in  the  victory  of  the  Grotto  the  triumph  of  their  hopes 
of  cure.  Along  the  rows  of  beds  there  was  a  quiver  of  joy 
when,  with  his  heart  stirred  by  all  those  poor  faces  turned 
towards  him,  eager  for  certainty,  Pierre  repeated :  '  God  had 
conquered.  Since  that  day  the  miracles  have  never  ceased, 
and  it  is  the  most  humble  who  are  the  most  frequently 

Then  he  laid  down  the  little  book.  Abb6  Judaine  was 
coming  in,  and  the  Sacrament  was  about  to  be  administered. 
Marie,  however,  again  penetrated  by  the  fever  of  faith,  her 
bands  burning,  leant  towards  Pierre.    '  Oh,  my  friend  I '  said 


she, '  I  pray  you  hear  me  confess  my  fault  and  absolve  me.  I 
have  blasphemed,  and  have  been  guilty  of  mortal  sin.  If  you 
do  not  succour  me,  I  shall  be  unable  to  receive  the  Blessed 
Sacrament,  and  yet  I  so  greatly  need  to  be  consoled  and 

The  young  priest  refused  her  request  mth  a  -wave  of  the 
hand.  He  had  never  been  •willing  to  act  as  confessor  to  this 
friend,  the  only  woman  he  had  loved  in  the  healthy  smiling 
days  of  youth.  However,  she  insisted.  '  I  beg  you  to  do 
so,'  said  she ;  '  you  will  help  to  work  the  miracle  of  my 

Then  he  gave  way,  and  received  the  avowal  of  her  fault 
that  impious  rebeUion  induced  by  suffering,  that  rebellion 
against  the  Virgin  who  had  remained  deaf  to  her  prayers. 
And  afterwards  he  granted  her  absolution  in  the  sacramental 

Meanwhile  Abbe  Judaine  had  already  deposited  the 
ciborium  on  a  httle  table,  between  two  lighted  tapers,  which 
looked  hke  woeful  stars  in  the  semi-obscurity  of  the  ward. 
Madame  de  Jonquiere  had  just  decided  to  open  one  of  the 
windows  quite  wide,  for  the  odour  emanating  from  all  the 
suffering  bodies  and  heaped-up  rags  had  become  unbearable. 
But  no  air  came  in  from  the  narrow  courtyard  into  which  the 
window  opened ;  though  black  with  night,  it  seemed  like  a 
well  of  fire.  Having  offered  to  act  as  server,  Pierre  repeated 
the  '  Confiteor.'  Then,  after  responding  with  the  'Misereatur ' 
and  the  '  Indulgentiam,'  the  chaplain,  who  wore  his  alb,  raised 
the  pyx,  saying,  '  Behold  the  Lamb  of  God,  who  taketh  away 
the  sins  of  the  world.'  All  the  women  who,  writhing  in 
agony,  were  impatiently  awaiting  the  communion,  hke  dying 
creatures  who  await  Hfe  from  some  fresh  medicine  which  is  a 
long  time  coming,  thereupon  thrice  repeated,  in  all  humihty, 
and  with  lips  almost  closed :  '  Lord,  I  am  not  worthy  that 
Thou  shouldst  enter  under  my  roof  ;  but  only  say  the  word 
and  my  soul  shall  be  healed.' 

Abb6  Judaine  had  begun  to  make  the  round  of  those  woe- 
ful beds,  accompanied  by  Pierre,  and  followed  by  Madame  de 
Jonquiere  and  Sister  Hyaeinthe,  each  of  whom  carried  one  of 
the  lighted  tapers.  The  Sister  designated  those  who  were  to 
communicate ;  and,  murmuring  the  customary  Latin  words,  the 
priest  leant  forward  and  placed  the  Host  somewhat  at  random 
on  the  sufferer's  tongue.  Almost  all  were  waiting  for  him 
^tb  widely  opened,  gUttering  eyes,  amidst  the  disorder  of 


that  hastily  pitched  camp.  Two  were  found  to  be  sound 
asleep,  however,  and  had  to  be  awakened.  Several  were 
moaning  without  being  conscious  of  it,  and  continued  moan- 
ing even  after  they  had  received  the  sacrament.  At  the  far 
end  of  the  ward,  the  rattle  of  the  poor  creature  who  could 
not  be  seen  still  resounded.  And  nothing  could  have  been 
more  mournful  than  the  appearance  of  that  little  cortige  in 
the  semi-darkness,  amidst  which  the  yellow  flames  of  the 
tapers  gleamed  like  stars. 

But  Marie's  face,  to  which  an  expression  of  ecstasy  had 
returned,  was  like  a  divine  apparition.  Although  La  Grivotte 
was  hungering  for  the  bread  of  life,  they  had  refused  her  the 
sacrament  on  this  occasion,  as  it  was  to  be  administered  to 
her  in  the  morning  at  the  Eosary ;  Madame  Vetu,  however, 
had  received  the  Host  on  her  black  tongue  in  a  hiccough. 
And  now  Marie  was  lying  there  under  the  pale  light  of  the 
tapers,  looking  so  beautiful  amidst  her  fair  hair,  with  her  eyes 
dUated  and  her  features  transfigured  by  faith,  that  everyone  ad- 
mired her.  She  received  the  sacrament  with  rapture ;  Heaven 
visibly  descended  into  her  poor,  youthful  frame,  reduced  to 
such  physical  wretchedness.  And,  clasping  Pierre's  hand,  she 
detained  him  for  a  moment,  saying :  '  Oh !  she  will  heal  me, ' 
my  friend,  she  has  just  promised  me  that  she  will  do  so.  Go 
and  take  some  rest.    I  shall  sleep  so  soundly  now  I  * 

As  he  withdrew  in  company  with  AbbI  Judaine,  Pierre 
caught  sight  of  little  Madame  Ddsagneaux  stretched  out  in 
the  armchair  in  which  weariness  had  overpowered  her.  No- 
thing could  awaken  her.  It  was  now  half-past  one  in  the 
morning ;  and  Madame  de  JonquiSre  and  her  assistant.  Sister 
Hyacinthe,  were  still  going  backwards  and  forwards,  turning 
the  patients  over,  cleansing  them,  and  dressing  their  sores. 
However,  the  ward  was  becoming  more  peaceful,  its  heavy 
darkness  had  grown  less  oppressive  since  Bernadette  with  her 
charm  had  passed  through  it.  The  visionary's  little  shadow 
was  now  flitting  in  triumph  from  bed  to  bed,  completing  its 
work,  bringing  a  little  of  heaven  to  each  of  the  despairing 
ones,  each  of  the  disinherited  ones  of  this  world ;  and  as  they 
all  at  last  sank  to  sleep  they  could  see  the  little  shepherdess, 
so  young,  so  ill  herself,  leaning  over  them  and  kissing  them 
with  a  kindly  smile. 




A.T  Bsven  o'clock  on  the  morning  of  that  fine,  bright,  warm 
August  Sunday,  M.  de  Guersaint  was  abeady  up  and  dressed 
in  one  of  the  two  little  rooms  which  he  had  fortunately  been 
able  to  secure  on  the  third  floor  of  the  Hotel  of  the  Apparitions. 
He  had  gone  to  bed  at  eleven  o'clock  the  night  before  and  had 
awoke  feeling  quite  fresh  and  gay.  As  soon  as  he  was  dressed 
he  entered  the  adjoining  room  which  Pierre  occupied ;  but 
the  young  priest,  who  had  not  returned  to  the  hotel  until  past 
one  in  the  morning,  with  his  blood  heated  by  Insomnia,  had 
been  unable  to  doze  off  until  daybreak  and  was  now  still 
slumbering.  His  cassock  flung  across  a  chair,  his  other 
garments  scattered  here  and  there,  testified  to  his  great  weari- 
ness and  agitation  of  mind. 

'Come,  come,  you  lazybones!'  cried  M.  de  Guersaint 
gaily ;  '  can't  you  hear  the  bells  ringing  ? ' 

Pierre  awoke  with  a  start,  quite  surprised  to  find  himself 
in  that  little  hotel  room  into  which  the  sunlight  was  stream- 
ing. All  the  joyous  peals  of  the  bells,  the  music  of  the  chim- 
ing, happy  town,  moreover,  came  in  through  the  window 
which  he  had  left  open, 

'  We  shall  never  have  time  to  get  to  the  hospital  before 
eight  o'clock  to  fetch  Marie,'  resumed  M.  de  Guersaint,  '  for 
we  must  have  some  breakfast,  eh  ? ' 

'  Of  course,  make  haste  and  order  two  cups  of  chocolate. 
I  will  get  up  at  once,  I  shan't  be  long,'  replied  Pierre. 

In  spite  of  the  fatigue  which  had  already  stiffened  his 
joints,  he  sprang  out  of  bed  as  soon  as  he  was  alone,  and 
made  all  haste  with  his  toilet.  However,  he  still  had  his 
bead  in  the  washing  basin,  ducking  it  in  the  fresh,  cool  water, 


■when  M.  de  Guersaint,  who  was  unable  to  remain  alone,  came 
back  again.  '  I've  given  the  order,'  said  he  ;  '  they  wiil  bring 
it  up.  Ah !  -what  a  curious  place  this  hotel  is  !  You  have  of 
course  seen  the  landlord,  Master  Majesty,  clad  in  white  from 
head  to  foot  and  looking  so  dignified  in  his  office.  The  place 
is  crammed,  it  appears ;  they  have  never  had  so  many  people 
before.  So  it  is  no  wonder  that  there  should  be  such  a  fearful 
noise.  I  was  woke  up  three  times  during  the  night.  People 
kept  on  talking  in  the  room  next  to  mine.  And  you,  did  you 
sleep  well  ? ' 

'  No,  indeed,'  answered  Pierre ;  '  I  was  tired  to  death,  but  I 
couldn't  close  my  eyes.  No  doubt  it  was  the  uproar  you 
speak  of  that  prevented  me.' 

In  his  turn,  he  then  began  to  talk  of  the  thin  partitions, 
and  the  manner  in  which  the  house  had  been  crammed  with 
people  until  it  seemed  as  though  the  floors  and  the  walls 
would  collapse  with  the  strain.  The  place  had  been  shaking 
all  night  long ;  every  now  and  then  people  suddenly  rushed 
along  the  passages,  heavy  footfalls  resounded,  gruff  voices 
ascended  nobody  knew  whence ;  without  speaking  of  all  the 
moaning  and  coughing,  the  frightful  coughing  which  seemed 
to  re-echo  from  every  waU.  Throughout  the  night  people 
evidently  came  in  and  went  out,  got  up  and  laid  down  again, 
paying  no  attention  to  the  hour  in  the  disorder  in  which  they 
lived,  amid  shocks  of  passion  which  made  them  hurry  to  their 
devotional  exercises  as  to  pleasure  parties. 

'  And  Marie,  how  was  she  when  you  left  her  last  night  ? ' 
M.  de  Guersaint  suddenly  inquired. 

'  A  great  deal  better,'  rephed  Pierre ;  '  she  had  an  attack  of 
extreme  discouragement,  but  all  her  courage  and  faith  re- 
turned to  her  at  last.'. 

A  pause  followed ;  and  then  the  girl's  father  resumed 
with  his  tranquil  optimism :  '  Oh  !  I  am  not  anxious.  Things 
wiU  go  on  all  right,  you'll  see.  For  my  own  part,  I  am  de- 
lighted. I  had  asked  the  Virgin  to  grant  me  her  protection 
in  my  affairs — you  know,  my  great  invention  of  navigable 
balloons.  Well,  suppose  I  told  you  that  she  has  already 
shown  me  her  favour  ?  Yes,  indeed ;  yesterday  evening  while 
I  was  talking  with  Abb6  Des  Hermoises,  he  told  me  that  at 
Toulouse  he  would  no  doubt  be  able  to  find  a  person  to 
finance  me — one  of  his  friends,  in  fact,  who  is  extremely 
wealthy  and  takes  great  interest  in  mechanics  !  And  in  this  I 
at  once  saw  the  hand  of  God ! '    M.  de  Guersaint  began  laugh- 


ing  -with  his  childish  laugh,  and  then  he  added :  '  That  Abb^ 
Des  Hermoises  is  a  charming  man.  I  shall  see  this  after- 
noon if  there  is  any  means  of  my  accompanying  him  on  an 
excursion  to  the  Cirque  de  Gavarnie  at  small  cost.' 

Pierre,  who  wished  to  pay  everything,  the  hotel  bill  and 
all  the  rest,  at  once  encouraged  him  in  this  idea.  '  Of  course,' 
said  he,  '  you  ought  not  to  miss  this  opportunity  to  visit  the 
mountains,  since  you  have  so  great  a  wish  to  do  so.  Your 
daughter  will  be  very  happy  to  know  that  you  are  pleased.' 

Their  talk,  however,  was  now  interrupted  by  a  servant  girl 
bringing  the  two  cups  of  chocolate  with  a  couple  of  rolls  on  a 
metal  tray  covered  with  a  napkin.  She  left  the  door  open  as 
she  entered  the  rqqm,  so  that  a  glimpse  was  obtained  of  some 
portion  of  the  passage.  '  Ah !  they  are  already  doing  my 
neighbour's  room ! '  exclaimed  M.  de  Guersaint.  '  He  is  a 
married  man,  isn't  he  ?    His  wife  is  with  him  ?  ' 

The  servant  looked  astonished,  '  Oh,  no,'  she  repUed, 
'  he  is  quite  alone ! ' 

'  Quite  alone  ?  Why,  I  heard  people  talking  in  his  room 
this  morning.' 

'  You  must  be  mistaken,  monsieur,'  said  the  servant ;  '  he 
has  just  gone  out  after  giving  orders  that  his  room  was  to  be 
tidied  up  at  once.'  And  then,  while  taking  the  cups  of  choco- 
late off  the  tray  and  placing  them  on  the  table,  she  continued : 
'  Oh  !  he  is  a  very  respectable  gentleman.  Last  year  he  was 
able  "to  have  one  of  the  Httle  pavilions  which  Monsieur 
Majesty  lets  out-  to  visitors,  in  the  lane  by  the  side  of  the 
hotel ;  but  tbis  year  he  applied  too  late  and  had  to  content 
himself  with  that  room,  which  greatly  worried  him,  for  it  isn't 
a  large  one,  though  there  is  a  big  cupboard  in  it.  As  he 
doesn't  care  to  eat  with  everybody,  he  takes  his  meals  there, 
and  he  orders  good  wine  and  the  best  of  everything,  I  can 
teU  you.' 

'  That  explains  it  all  1 '  replied  M.  de  Guersaint  gaily ;  '  he 
dined  too  well  last  night,  and  I  must  have  heard  him  talking 
in  his  sleep.' 

Pierre  had  been  listening  somewhat  inquisitively  to  all 
this  chatter.  'And  on  this  side,  my  side,'  said  he,  'isn't 
there  a  gentleman  with  two  ladies,  and  a  little  boy  who  walks 
about  with  a  crutch  ? ' 

'  Yes,  Monsieur  I'Abbfi,  I  know  them.  The  aunt,  Madame 
Chaise,  took  one  of  the  two  rooms  for  herself ;  and  Monsieur 
and  Madame  Vigneron  with  their  son  Gustavo  have  had  to 


content  themselves  with  the  other  one.  This  is  the  second 
year  they  have  come  to  Lourdes.  They  are  very  respectable 
people  too.' 

Pierre  nodded.  During  the  night  he  had  fancied  he  could 
recognise  the  voice  of  M.  Vigneron,  whom  the  heat  doubtless 
had  incommoded.  However,  the  servant  was  now  thoroughly 
started,  and  she  began  to  enumerate  the  other  persons  whose 
rooms  were  reached  by  the  same  passage ;  on  the  left  hand, 
there  was  a  priest,  then  a  mother  with  three  daughters,  and 
then  an  old  married  couple ;  whilst  on  the  right  lodged  an- 
other gentleman  who  was  all  alone>  a  yonng  lady,  too,  who 
was  unaccompanied,  and  then  a  fiajnily  party  which  included 
five  young  children.  The  hotel  was  crowded  to  its  garrets. 
The  servants  had  had  to  give  up  their  rooms  the  previous 
evening  and  lie  in  a  heap  in  the  washhouse.  During  the 
night,  also,  some  camp  bedsteads  had  even  been  set  up  on  the 
landings  ;  and  one  honourable  ecclesiastic,  for  lack  of  other 
accommodation,  had  been  obliged  to  sleep  on  a  biUiard-table. 

When  the  girl  had  retired  and  the  two  men  had  drunk 
their  chocolate,  M.  de  Guersaint  went  back  into  his  own  room 
to  wash  his  hands  again,  for  he  was  very  careful  of  his  person ; 
and  Pierre,  who  remained  alone,  felt  attracted  by  the  gay  sun- 
light, and  stepped  for  a  moment  on  to  the  narrow  balcony 
outside  his  window.  Each  of  the  third-floor  rooms  on  this 
side  of  the  hotel  was  provided  with  a  similar  balcony,  having 
a  carved- wood  balustrade.  However,  the  young  priest's  sur- 
prise was  very  great,  for  he  had  scarcely  stepped  outside  when 
he  suddenly  saw  a  woman  protrude  her  head  over  the  balcony 
next  to  him— jthat  of  the  room  occupied  by  the  gentleman 
whom  M.  de  Guersaint  and  the  servant  had  been  speaking  of. 
And  this  woman  he  had  recognised :  it  was  Madame  Volmar. 
There  was  no  mistaking  her  long  face  with  its  delicate  drawn 
features,  its  magnificent  large  eyes,  those  brasiers  over  which 
a  veil,  a  dimming  moire,  seemed  to  pass  at  times.  She  gave 
a  start  of  terror  on  perceiving  him.  And  he,  extremely  ill  at 
ease,  grieved  that  he  should  have  frightened  her,  made  all 
haste  to  withdraw  into  his  apartment.  A  sudden  light  had 
dawned  upon  him,  and  he  now  understood  and  could  picture 
everything.  So  this  was  why  she  had  not  been  seen  at  the 
Hospital,  where  little  Madame  D6sagneauxwas  always  asking 
for  her.  Standing  motionless,  his  heart  upset,  Pierre  fell  into 
a  deep  reverie,  reflecting  on  the  life  led  by  this  woman  whom 
be  knew,  that  torturing  conjugal  life  in  Paris  between  a  fierce 


mother-in-law  and  an  unworthy  husband,  and  then  those  three 
days  of  complete  liberty  spent  at  Lourdes,  that  brief  bonfire 
of  passion  to  which  she  had  hastened  under  the  sacrilegious 
pretext  of  serving  the  Divinity.  Tears  whose  cause  he  could 
not  even  explain,  tears  that  ascended  from  the  very  depths  of 
his  being,  from  his  own  voluntary  chastity,  welled  into  his 
eyes  amidst  the  feeling  of  intense  sorrow  which  came  over 

'  Well,  are  you  ready  ? '  joyously  called  M.  de  Guersaint  as 
he  came  back,  with  his  grey  jacket  buttoned  up  and  his  hands 

'  Yes,  yes,  let  us  go,'  replied  Pierre,  turning  aside  and  pre- 
tending to  look  for  his  hat  so  that  he  might  wipe  his  eyes. 

Then  they  went  out,  and  on  crossing  the  threshold  heard 
on  their  left  hand  an  unctuous  voice  which  they  recognised ; 
it  was  that  of  M.  Vigneron  who  was  loudly  repeating  the 
morning  prayers.  A  moment  afterwards  came  a  meeting 
which  interested  them.  They  were  walking  down  the  passage 
when  they  were  passed  by  a  middle  aged,  thickset,  sturdy- 
looking  gentleman,  wearing  carefully  trimmed  whiskers.  He 
bent  his  back  and  passed  so  rapidly  that  they  were  unable  to 
distinguish  his  features,  but  they  noticed  that  he  was  carry- 
ing a  carefully  made  parcel.  And  immediately  afterwards  he 
sUpped  a  key  into  the  lock  of  the  room  adjoining  M.  de  Guer- 
saint's,  and  opening  the  door  disappeared  noiselessly,  like  a 

M.  de  Guersaint  had  glanced  round :  '  Ah !  my  neigh- 
bour,' said  he ;  'he  has  been  to  market  and  has  brought  back 
some  delicacies,  no  doubt ! ' 

Pierre  pretended  not  to  hear,  for  his  companion  was  so 
light-minded  that  he  did  not  care  to  trust  him  with  a  secret 
which  was  not  his  own.  Besides,  a  feeling  of  uneasiness  was 
returning  to  him,  a  kind  of  chaste  terror  at  the  thought  that 
the  world  and  the  flesh  were  there  taking  their  revenge, 
amidst  all  the  mystical  enthusiasm  which  he  could  feel  around 

They  reached  the  Hospital  just  as  the  patients  were  being 
brought  out  to  be  carried  to  the  Grotto  ;  and  they  found  that 
Marie  had  slept  well  and  was  very  gay.  She  kissed  her  father 
and  scolded  him  when  she  learnt  that  he  had  not  yet  decided 
on  his  trip  to  Gavarnie.  She  should  really  be  displeased  with 
him,  she  said,  if  he  did  not  go.  Still  with  the  same  restful, 
ewiiling  expression,  she  added  that  she  did  not  expect  to  be 


curecl  that  day ;  and  then,  assuming  an  air  of  mystery,  she 
begged  Pierre  to  obtain  permission  for  her  to  spend  the  follow- 
ing night  before  the  Grotto.  This  was  a  favour  which  all  the 
sufferers  ardently  coveted,  but  which  only  a  few  favoured  ones 
with  diflSculty  secured.  After  protesting,  anxious  as  he  felt 
with  regard  to  the  effect  which  a  night  spent  in  the  open  air 
might  have  upon  her  health,  the  young  priest,  seeing  how  un- 
happy she  had  suddenly  become,  at  last  promised  that  he 
would  make  the  application.  Doubtless  she  imagined  that 
she  would  only  obtain  a  hearing  from  the  Virgin  when  they 
were  alone  together  in  the  slumbering  peacefulness  of  the 
night.  That  morning,  indeed,  she  felt  so  lost  among  the 
innumerable  patients  who  were  heaped  together  in  front  of 
the  Grotto,  that  already  at  ten  o'clock  she  asked  to  be  taken 
back  to  the  Hospital,  complaining  that  the  bright  hght  tired 
her  eyes.  And  when  her  father  and  the  priest  had  again 
installed  her  in  the  Sainte-Honorine  Ward,  she  gave  them 
their  liberty  for  the  remainder  of  the  day.  '  No,  don't  come 
to  fetch  me,'  she  said,  '  I  shall  not  go  back  to  the  Grotto  this 
afternoon — it  would  be  useless.  But  you  will  come  for  me 
this  evening  at  nine  o'clock,  won't  you,  Pierre  ?  It  is  agreed, 
you  have  given  me  your  word.' 

He  repeated  that  he  would  endeavour  to  secure  the 
requisite  permission,  and  that,  if  necessary,  he  would  apply 
to  Father  Fourcade  in  person. 

'  Then,  till  this  evening,  darling,'  said  M.  de  Guersaint, 
kissing  his  daughter.  And  he  and  Pierre  went  off  together, 
leaving  her  lying  on  her  bed,  with  an  absorbed  expression  on 
her  features  as  her  large,  smiling  eyes  wandered  away  into 

It  was  barely  half-past  ten  when  they  got  back  to  the 
Hotel  of  the  Apparitions ;  but  M.  de  Guersaint,  whom  the 
fine  weather  delighted,  talked  of  having  d&jeuner  at  once,  so 
that  he  might  the  sooner  start  upon  a  ramble  through  Lourdes. 
First  of  all,  however,  he  wished  to  go  up  to  his  room,  and 
Pierre  following  him,  they  met  with  quite  a  drama  on  their 
way.  The  door  of  the  room  occupied  by  the  Vignerons  was 
wide  open,  and  httle  Gustave  could  be  seen  lying  on  the  sofa 
which  served  as  his  bed.  He  was  livid ;  a  moment  pre- 
viously he  had  suddenly  fainted,  and  this  had  made  the  father 
and  mother  imagine  that  the  end  had  come.  Madame 
Vigneron  was  crouching  on  a  chair,  still  stupefied  by  her 
fright,  whilst  M.  Vigneron  rushed  about  the  room,  thrusting 

mt)  AND  HOARD  S05 

everytliiBg  aside  in  order  that  he  might  prepare  a  glass  of 
Bugared-water,  to  which  he  added  a  few  drops  of  some  elixir. 
TMs  draught,  he  exclaimed,  would  set  the  lad  right  again. 
But  all  the  same,  it  was  incomprehensible.  The  boy  was  still 
strong,  and  to  think  that  he  should  have  fainted  like  that,  and 
have  turned  as  white  as  a  chicken  !  Speaking  in  this  wise, 
M.  Vigneron  glanced  at  Madame  Chaise,  the  aunt,  who  was 
standing  in  front  of  the  sofa,  looking  in  good  health  that 
morning ;  and  his  hands  shook  yet  more  violently  at  the 
covert  idea  that  if  that  stupid  attack  had  carried  off  his  son, 
they  would  no  longer  have  inherited  the  aunt's  fortune.  He 
was  quite  beside  himself  at  this  thought,  and  eagerly  opening 
the  boy's  mouth  he  compelled  him  to  swallow  the  entire  con- 
tents of  the  glass.  Then,  however,  when  he  heard  Gustave 
sigh,  and  saw  him  open  his  eyes  again,  his  fatherly  good-nature 
reappeared,  and  he  shed  tears,  and  called  the  lad  his  dear 
little  fellow.  But  on  Madame  Chaise  drawing  near  to  offer 
some  assistance,  Gustave  repulsed  her  with  a  sudden  gesture 
of  hatred,  as  though  he  understood  how  this  woman's  money 
unconsciously  perverted  his  parents,  who,  after  all,  were 
worthy  folks.  Greatly  offended,  the  old  lady  turned  on  her 
heel,  and  seated  herself  in  a  corner,  whilst  the  father  and 
mother,  at  last  freed  from  their  anxiety,  returned  thanks  to 
the  Blessed  Virgin  for  having  preserved  their  darling,  who 
smiled  at  thera  with  his  intelligent  and  infinitely  sorrowful 
smile,  knowing  and  understanding  everything  as  he  did,  and 
no  longer  having  any  taste  for  life,  although  he  was  not 

'  Can  we  be  of  any  help  to  you  ? '  asked  Pierre  in  an 
obliging  way. 

'  No,  no,  I  thank  you,  gentlemen,'  replied  M.  Vigneron, 
coming  for  a  moment  into  the  passage.  '  But  oh !  we  did 
have  a  fright !  Think  of  it,  an  only  son,  who  is  so  dear  to  us, 

All  around  them  the  approach  of  the  dijeuner  hour  was 
now  throwing  the  house  into  commotion.  Every  door  was 
banging,  and  the  passages  and  the  staircase  resounded  with 
the  constant  pitter-patter  of  feet.  Three  big  girls  passed  by, 
raising  a  current  of  air  with  the  sweep  of  their  skirts.  Some 
little  children  were  crying  in  a  neighbouring  room.  Then 
there  were  old  people  who  seemed  quite  scared,  and  distracted 
priests  who,  forgetting  their  calling,  caught  up  their  cassocks 
with  both  hands,  so  that  they  might  run  the  faster  to  the 


dining-room.  From  the  top  to  the  bottom  of  the  house  one 
could  feel  the  floors  shaking  under  the  excessive  weight  of  all 
the  people  who  were  packed  inside  the  hotel. 

'  Oh,  I  hope  that  it  is  all  over  now,  and  that  the  Blessed 
Virgin  will  cure  him,'  repeated  M.  Vigneron,  before  allowing 
his  neighbours  to  retire.  '  We  are  going  downstairs,  for  I 
must  confess  that  all  this  has  made  me  feel  faint.  I  need 
something  to  eat,  I  am  terribly  hungry.' 

When  Pierre  and  M.  de  Guersaint  at  last  left  their  rooms, 
and  went  downstairs,  they  found  to  their  annoyance  that 
there  was  not  the  smallest  table-corner  vacant  in  the  large 
dining-room.  A  most  extraordinary  mob  had  assembled 
there,  and  the  few  seats  that  were  still  unoccupied  were 
reserved.  A  waiter  informed  them  that  the  room  never 
emptied  between  ten  and  one  o'clock,  such  was  the  rush  of 
appetite,  sharpened  by  the  keen  mountain  air.  So  they  had 
to  resign  thernselves  to  wait,  requesting  the  waiter  to  warn 
them  as  soon  as  there  should  be  a  couple  of  vacant  places. 
Then,  scarcely  knowing  what  to  do  with  themselves,  they  went 
to  walk  about  the  hotel  porch,  whence  there  was  a  view  of 
the  street,  along  which  the  townsfolk,  in  their  Sunday  best, 
streamed  without  a  pause. 

All  at  once,  however,  the  landlord  of  the  Hotel  of  the 
Apparitions,  Master  Majesty  in  person,  appeared  before  them, 
clad  in  white  from  head  to  foot ;  and  with  a  great  show  of 
politeness  he  inquired  if  the  gentlemen  would  hke  to  wait  in 
the  drawing-room.  He  was  a  stout  man  of  five-and-forty,  and 
strove  to  bear  the  burden  of  his  name  in  a  right  royal  fashion. 
Bald  and  clean-shaven,  with  round  blue  eyes  in  a  waxy  face, 
displaying  three  superposed  chins,  he  always  deported  himself 
with  much  dignity.  He  had  come  from  Nevers  with  the 
Sisters  who  managed  the  orphan  asylum,  and  was  married  to 
a  dusky  little  woman,  a  native  of  Lourdes.  In  less  than  fifteen 
years  they  had  made  their  hotel  one  of  the  most  substantial 
and  best-patronised  estabUshments  in  the  town.  Of  recent 
times  moreover  they  had  started  a  business  in  religious  articles, 
installed  in  a  large  shop  on  the  left  of  the  hotel  porch  and 
managed  by  a  young  niece  under  Madame  Majesty's  super- 

'You  can  wait  in 'the  drawing-room,  gentlemen,*  again 
suggested  the  hotelkeeper  whom  Pierre's  cassock  rendered 
very  attentive. 

They  replied,  however,  that  they  preferred  to  walk  about 


and  wait  in  the  open  air.  And  thereupon  Majesty  would  not 
leave  them,  but  deigned  to  chat  with  them  for  a  moment  as 
he  was  wont  to  do  with  those  of  his  customers  whom  he 
desired  to  honour.  The  conversation  turned  at  first  on  the 
procession  which  would  take  place  that  night  and  which 
promised  to  be  a  superb  spectacle  as  the  weather  was  so 
fine.  There  were  more  than  fifty  thousand  strangers  gathered 
together  in  Lourdes  that  day,  for  visitors  had  come  in  from 
all  the  neighbouring  bathing  stations.  This  explained  the 
crush  at  the  tahl&  d'hdte.  Possibly  the  town' would  run  short 
of  bread  as  had  been  the  case  the  .previous  year. 

*  You  saw  what  a  scramble  there  is,'  concluded  Majeste, 
'  we  really  don't  know  how  to  manage.  It  isn't  my  fault,  1 
assure  you,  if  you  are  kept  waiting  for  a  short  time.' 

At  this  moment,  however,  a  postman  arrived  with  a  large 
batch  of  newspapers  and  letters  which  he  deposited  on  a  table 
in  the  office.  He  had  kept  one  letter  in  his  hand  and  inquired 
of  the  landlord, '  Have  you  a. Madame  Maze  here  ? ' 

'  Madame  Maze,  Madame  Maze,'  repeated  the  hotelkeeper. 
'  No,  no,  certainly  not.' 

Pierre  had  heard  both  question  and  answer,  and  drawing 
near  he  exclaimed,  '  I  know  of  a  Madame  Maze  who  must 
be  lodging  with  the  Sisters  of  the  Immaculate  Conception, 
the  Blue  Sisters  as  people  call  them  here,  I  think.' 

The  postman  thanked  him  for  the  information  and  went 
off,  but  a  somewhat  bitter  smile  had  risen  to  Majesty's  lips. 
'  The  Blue  Sisters,'  he  muttered,  '  ah  !  the  Blue  Sisters.'  Then, 
darting  a  side  glance  at  Pierre's  cassock,  he  stopped  short, 
as  though  he  feared  that  he  might  say  too  much.  Yet  his 
heart  was  overflowing  ;  he  would  have  greatly  liked  to  ease 
his  feeUngs,  and  this  young  priest  from  Paris,  who  looked  so 
liberal-minded,  could  not  be  one  of  the '  band '  as  he  called  all 
those  who  discharged  functions  at  the  Grotto  and  coined 
money  out  of  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes.  Accordingly,  little  by 
little,  he  ventured  to  speak  out. 

'  I  am  a  good  Christian,  I  assure  you.  Monsieur  I'Abb^,' 
said  he.  '  In  fact  we  are  all  good  Christians  here.  And  I  am 
a  regular  worshipper  and  take  the  sacrament  every  Easter. 
But,  really,  I  must  say  that  members  of  a  religious  community 
ought  not  to  keep  hotels.    No,  no,  it  isn't  right  1 ' 

And  thereupon  he  vented  all  the  spite  of  a  tradesman  in 
presence  of  what  he  considered  to  be  disloyal  competition. 
Ought  not  those  Blue  Sisters,  those  Sisters  ol  the  Immaculate 


Conception,  to  have  confined  themselves  to  their  real  functions, 
the  manufacture  of  wafers  for  sacramental  purposes,  and  the 
repairing  and  washing  of  church  linen?  Instead  of  that, 
however,  they  had  transformed  their  convent  into  a  vast 
hostelry,  where  ladies  who  came  to  Lourdes  unaccompanied 
found  separate  rooms,  and  were  able  to  take  their  meals  either 
in  privacy  or  in  a  general  dining-room.  Everything  was 
certainly  very  clean,  very  well  organised  and  very  inexpensive, 
thanks  to  the  thousand  advantages  which  the  Sisters  enjoyed ; 
in  fact,  no  hotel  at  Lourdes  did  so  much  business.  '  But  all 
the  same,'  continued  Majesty, '  I  ask  you  if  it  is  proper  ?  To 
think  of  nuns  selling  victuals  !  Besides,  I  must  tell  you  that 
the  lady  superior  is  really  a  clever  woman,  and  as  soon  as  she 
saw  the  stream  of  fortune  roUing  in,  she  wanted  to  keep  it  aU 
for  her  own  community  and  resolutely  parted  from  the  Fathers 
of  the  Grotto  who  wanted  to  lay  their  hands  on  it.  Yes, 
Monsieur  I'Abb^,  she  even  went  to  Eome  and  gained  her  cause 
there,  so  that  now  she  pockets  all  the  money  that  her  bills 
bring  in.  Think  of  it,  nuns,  yes  nuns,  mon  Dieu  I  letting  fur- 
nished rooms  and  keeping  a  table  d'hdte.' 

He  raised  his  arrds  to  heaven,  he  was  stifling  with  envy 
and  vexation. 

'  But  as  your  house  is  crammed,'  Pierre  gently  objected, 
'  as  you  no  longer  have  either  a  bed  or  a  plate  at  anybody's 
disposal,  where  would  you  put  any  additional  visitors  who 
might  arrive  here  ?  ' 

Majeste  at  once  began  protesting.  '  Ah  I  Monsieur 
I'Abbd  ! '  said  he,  '  one  can  see  very  well  that  you  don't  know 
the  place.  It's  quite  true  that  there  is  work  for  aU  of  us,  and 
that  nobody  has  reason  to  complain  during  the  national 
pilgrimage.  But  that  only  lasts  four  or  five  days,  and  in 
ordinary  times  the  custom  we  secure  isn't  nearly  so  great. 
For  myself,  thank  Heaven,  I  am  always  satisfied.  My  house 
is  well  known,  it  occupies  the  same  rank  as  the  Hotel  of  the 
Grotto,  where  two  lan^ords  have  already  made  their  fortunes. 
But  no  matter,  it  is  vexing  to  see  those  Blue  Sisters  taking  all 
the  cream  of  the  custom,  for  instance  the  ladies  of  the 
bourgeoisie  who  spend  a  fortnight  and  three  weeks  here  at  a 
stretch ;  and  that  too,  just  in  the  quiet  season,  when  there 
are  not  many  people  here.  You  understand,  don't  you? 
There  are  people  of  position  who  dislike  uproar ;  they  go  by 
themselves  to  the  Grotto,  and  pray  there  all  day  long,  for  days 


together,  and  pa^rgood  prices  for  their  accommodation  without 
any  higgling.' 

Madame  Majesty,  whom  Pierre  and  M.  de  Gnersaint  had 
not  noticed  leaning  over  an  account-book  in  which  she  was 
adding  up  some  figures,  thereupon  intervened  in  a  shrill 
voice :  '  We  had  a  customer  like  that,  gentlemen,  who  stayed 
here  for  two  months  last  year.  She  went  to  the  Grotto, 
came  back,  went  there  again,  took  her  meals,  and  went  to  bed. 
And  never  did  we  have  a  word  of  complaint  from  her ;  she 
was  always  smiling,  as  though  to  say  that  she  found  every- 
thing very  nice.  She  paid  her  bill,  too,  without  even  looking 
at  it.    Ah  !  one  regrets  people  of  that  kind.' 

Short,  thin,  very  dark,  and  dressed  in  black,  with  a  little 
white  collar,  Madame  Majesty  had  risen  to  her  feet  ;  and 
she  now  began  to  solicit  custom :  '  If  you  would  like  to 
buy  a  few  little  souvenirs  of  Lourdes  before  you  leave,  gentle- 
men, I  hope  that  you  will  not  forget  us.  We  have  a  shop 
close  by,  where  you  will  find  an  assortment  of  all  the  articles 
that  are  most  in  request.  As  a  rule  the  persons  who  stay 
here  are  kind  enough  not  to  deal  elsewhere.' 

However,  Majest6  was  again  wagging  his  head,  with  the 
air  of  a  good  Christian  saddened  by  the  scandals  of  the  time. 
'  Certainly,'  said  he, '  I  don't  want  to  show  any  disrespect  to 
the  reverend  Fathers,  but  it  must  in  all  truth  be  admitted 
that  they  are  too  greedy.  You  must  have  seen  the  shop 
which  they  have  set  up  near  the  Grotto,  that  shop  which  is 
always  crowded,  and  where  tapers  and  articles  of  piety  are 
sold.  A  bishop  declared  that  it  was  shameful,  and  that  the 
buyers  and  sellers  ought  to  be  driven  out  of  the  temple  afresh. 
It  is  said,  too,  that  the  Fathers  run  that  big  shop  yonder,  just 
across  the  street,  which  supphes  aU  the  petty  dealers  in  the 
town.  And  according  to  the  reports  which  circulate,  they 
have  a  finger  in  all  the  trade  in  religious  articles,  and  levy  a 
percentage  on  the  millions  of  chaplets,  statuettes,  and  medals 
which  are  sold  every  year  at  Lourdes. ' 

Majeste  had  now  lowered  his  voice,  for  his  accusations 
were  becoming  precise,  and  he  ended  by  trembling  somewhat 
at  his  imprudence  in  talking  so  confidentially  to  strangers. 
However,  the  expression  of  Pierre's  gentle,  attentive  face  reas- 
sured him ;  and  so  he  continued  with  the  passion  of  a  wounded 
rival,  resolved  to  go  on  to  the  very  end.  'I  am  willing 
to  admit,'  said  he,  '  that  there  is  some  exaggeration  in  all  this. 
But  none  the  less  it  does  rehgion  no  good  for  people  to  see  the 


sio  LOUROeS 

reverend  Fathers  keeping  shops  like  us  tradesmen.  For  my 
part,  of  course,  I  don't  go  and  ask  for  a  share  of  the  money 
which  they  make  by  their  masses,  or  a  percentage  on  the 
presents  which  they  receive,  so  why  should  they  start  selling 
what  I  sell  ?  Our  business  was  a  poor  one  last  year  owing  to 
them.  There  are  already  too  many  of  us ;  nowadays  every- 
one at  Lourdes  sells  "  rehgious  articles,"  to  such  an  extent,  in 
fact,  that  there  will  soon  be  no  butchers  or  vrine  merchants 
left— nothing  but  bread  to  eat  and  water  to  drink.  Ah! 
Monsieur  rAbb6,  it  is  no  doubt  nice  to  have  the  Blessed 
Virgin  with  us,  but  things  are  none  the  less  very  bad  at 

A  person  staying  at  the  hotel  at  that  moment  disturbed 
him,  but  he  returned  just  as  a  young  girl  came  in  search  of 
Madame  Majesty.  The  damsel,  who  evidently  belonged  to 
Lourdes,  was  very  pretty,  smaU  but  plump,  with  beautiful 
black  hair,  and  a  round  face  fuU  of  bright  gaiety. 

'  That  is  our  niece  ApolHne,'  resumed  Majeste.  '  She  has 
been  keeping  our  shop  for  two  years  past.  She  is  the  daughtei 
of  one  of  my  v?ife's  brothers,  who  is  in  poor  circumstances. 
She  was  keeping  sheep  at  Ossun,  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Bartr^s,  when  we  were  struck  by  her  intelligence  and  nice 
looks  and  decided  to  bring  her  here ;  and  we  don't  repent 
having  done  so,  for  she  has  a  great  deal  of  merit,  and  has 
become  a  very  good  saleswoman.' 

A  point  to  which  he  omitted  to  refer,  was  that  there  were 
rumours  current  of  somewhat  flighty  conduct  on  Mademoiselle 
ApoUine's  part.  But  she  undoubtedly  had  her  value :  she 
attracted  customers  by  the  power,  possibly,  of  her  large  black 
eyes,  which  smiled  sb  readily.  During  his  sojourn  at  Lourdes 
the  previous  year,  Gerard  de  Peyrelongue  had  scarcely  stirred 
from  the  shop  she  managed,  and  doubtless  it  was  only  the 
matrimonial  ideas  now  flitting  through  his  head  that  pre- 
vented him  from  returning  thither.  It  seemed  as  though  the 
Abbe  Des  Hermoises  had  taken  his  place,  for  this  gallant 
ecclesiastic  brought  a  great  many  la£eB  to  make  purchases 
at  the  repository. 

'  Ah  1  you  are  speaking  of  Apolline,'  said  Madame  MajestI, 
at  that  moment  coming  back  from  the  shop.  'Have  you 
noticed  one  thing  about  her,  gentlemen— her  extraordinary 
likeness  to  Bernadette  ?  There,  on  the  wall  yonder,  is  a  photo> 
graph  of  Bernadette  when  she  was  eighteen  years  old.' 

Pierre  and  M.  de  Guersaint  drew  near  to  examine  the 


portrait,  whilst  Majeste  exclaimed ;  '  BDrnadettG,  yes,  certainly 
— she  was  rather  like  Apolline,  but  not  nearly  so  nice ;  she 
looked  so  sad  and  poor.' 

He  would  doubtless  have  gone  on  chattering,  but  just  then 
the  waiter  appeared  and  announced  that  there  was  at  last  a 
little  table  vacant.  M.  de  Guersaint  had  twice  gone  to  glance 
inside  the  dining-room,  for  he  was  eager  to  have  his  d&jmmer 
and  spend  the  remainder  of  that  fine  Sunday  out  of  doors. 
So  he  now  hastened  away,  without  paying  any  further  atten- 
tion to  Majesty,  who  remarked,  with  an  amiable  smile,  that 
the  gentlemen  had  not  had  so  very  long  to  wait  after  all. 

To  reach  the  table  mentioned  by  the  waiter  the  architect 
and  Pierre  had  to  cross  the  dining-room  from  end  to  end.  It 
was  a  long  apartment,  painted  a  light  oak  colour,  an  oily 
yellow,  which  was  already  peehng  away  in  places  and  soiled 
with  stains  in  others.  You  realised  that  rapid  wear  and  tear 
went  on  here  amidst  the  continual  scramble  of  the  big  eaters 
who  sat  down  at  table.  The  only  ornaments  were  a  gilt  zinc 
clock  and  a  couple  of  meagre  candelabra  on  the  mantelpiece. 
Guipure  curtains,  moreover,  bung  at  the  five  large  windows 
loolung  on  to  the  street,  which  was  flooded  with  sunshine,  some 
of  the  ardent  arrow-like  rays  penetrating  into  the  room 
although  the  blinds  had  been  lowered.  And,  in  the  middle  of 
the  apartment,  some  forty  persons  were  packed  together  at  the 
table  d'hdte,  which  was  scarcely  eleven  yards  in  length  and 
did  not  supply  proper  accommodation  for  more  than  thirty 
people ;  whilst  at  the  Uttle  tables  standing  against  the  walls 
upon  either  side  another  forty  persons  sat  close  together, 
hustled  by  the  three  waiters  each  time  that  they  went  by. 
You  had  scarcely  reached  the  threshold  before  you  were 
deafened  by  the  extraordinary  uproar,  the  noise  of  voices  and 
the  clatter  of  forks  and  plates ;  and  it  seemed,  too,  as  if  you 
were  entering  a  damp  oven,  for  a  warm,  steamy  mist,  laden 
with  a  suffocating  smell  of  victuals,  assailed  the  face.  - 

Pierre  at  first  failed  to  distinguish  anything,  but  when  he 
was  installed  at  the  little  table^-a  garden-table  which  had 
been  brought  indoors  for  the  occasion,  and  on  which  there 
was  scarcely  room  for  two  covers — he  felt  quite  upset,  almost 
sick,  in  fact,  at  the  sight  presented  by  the  table  d'hdte,  which 
his  glance  now  enfiladed  from  end  to  end.  People  had  been 
eating  at  it  for  an  hour  already,  two  seta  of  customers  had 
followed  one  upon  the  other,  and  the  covers  were  strewn  about 
in  higgledy-piggledy  fashion.    On  the  cloth  were  numerous 



stains  of  wine  and  sauce,  and  there  was  even  no  symmetry  in  ths 
arrangement  of  the  glass  fruit-stands,  which  formed  the  only 
decorations  of  the  table.  Then  one's  astonishment  increased  at 
sight  of  the  motley  mob  which  was  collected  there — ^huge  priests, 
scraggy  girls,  mothers  overflowing  with  superfluous  fat,  gentle- 
men with  red  faces,  and  famiUes  ranged  in  rows  and  display- 
ing all  the  pitiable,  increasing  ugliness  of  successive  genera- 
tions. AU  these  people  were  perspiring,  greedily  swallowing, 
seated  slantwise,  lacking  room  to  move  their  arms,  and  unable 
even  to  use  their  hands  deftly.  And  amidst  this  display  of 
appetite,  increased  tenfold  by  fatigue,  and  of  eager  haste  to  fill 
one's  stomach  in  order  to  return  to  the  Grotto  more  quickly, 
—there  was  a  corpulent  ecclesiastic  who  in  nowise  hurried,  but 
ate  of  every  dish  vrith  prudent  slowness,  erunohing  his  food 
with  a  ceaseless,  dignified  movement  of  the  jaws. 

'  Fichtre  1 '  exclaimed  M.  de  Guersaint, '  it  is  by  no  means 
cool  in  here.  All  the  same,  I  shall  be  gliid  of  something  to 
eat,  for  I've  felt  a  sinMng  in  the  stomach  ever  since  I  have 
been  at  Lourdes.    And  you — are  you  hungry  ? ' 

'  Yes,  yes,  I  shall  eat,'  replied  Pierre,  though,  truth  to  tell, 
he  felt  quite  upset. 

The  menu  was  a  copious  one.  There  was  salmon,  an 
omelet,  mutton  cutlets  with  mashed  potatoes,  stewed  kid- 
neys, cauliflowers,  cold  meats,  and  apricot  tarts — everything 
cooked  too  much,  and  swimming  in  sauce  which,  but  for  its 
grittiness,  would  have  been  flavourless.  However,  there  was 
some  fairly  fine  fruit  on  the  glass  stands,  particularly  some 
peaches.  And,  besides,  the  people  did  not  seem  at  aU  diflSculli 
to  please  ;  they  apparently  had  no  palates,  for  there  was  no 
sign  of  nausea.  Hemmed  in  between  an  old  priest  and  a 
dirty,  full-bearded  man,  a  girl  of  delicate  build,  who  looked 
very  pretty  with  her  soft  eyes  and  silken  skin,  was  eating  some 
kidneys  with  an  expression  of  absolute  beatitude,  although  the 
so-called  'sauce'  in  which  they  swam  was  simply  greyish 

'  Hum ! '  resumed  even  M.  de  Guersaint, '  this  salmon  is  not 
so  bad.    Add  a  little  salt  to  it,  and  you  will  find  it  aU  right.' 

Pierre  made  up  his  mind  to  eat,  for  after  aU  he  must  take 
sustenance  for  strength's  sake.  At  a  little  table  close  by, 
however,  he  had  just  caught  sight  of  Madame  Vigneron  and 
Madame  Chaise,  who  sat  face  to  face,  apparently  waiting. 
And,  indeed,  M.  Vigneron  and  his  son  Gustave  soon  appeared; 
the  latter  still  pale,  {md  leaning  more  heavily  than  usual  gn  hia 


crutch.  '  Sit  down  next  to  your  aunt,'  said  his  father ;  •  I  will 
take  the  chair  beside  your  mother.'  But  just  then  he  per- 
ceived his  two  neighbours,  and  stepping  up  to  them,  he  added : 
'  Oh !  he  is  now  all  right  again.  I  have  been  rubbing  him 
with  some  eau-de-Cologne,  and  by-and-by  he  will  be  able  to 
take  his  bath  at  the  piscina.' 

Thereupon  M.  Vigneron  sat  down,  and  began  to  devour. 
But  what  an  awful  fright  he  had  had !  He  again  began  talk- 
ing of  it  aloud,  despite  himself,  so  intense  had  been  his  terror 
at  the  thought  that  the  lad  might  go  off  before  his  aunt.  The 
latter  related  that  whilst  she  was  kneeling  at  the  Grotto  the 
day  before,  she  had  experienced  a  sudden  f eeUng  of  relief  ; 
in  fact,  she  flattered  herself  that  she  was  cured  of  her  heart 
complaint,  and  began  giving  precise  particulars,  to  which  her 
brother-in-law  listened  with  dilated  eyes,  full  of  involuntary 
anxiety.  Most  certainly  he  was  a  good-natured  man,  he 
had  never  desired  anybody's  death ;  only  he  felt  indignant  at 
the  idea  that  the  Virgin  might  cure  this  old  woman,  and 
forget  his  son,  who  was  so  young.  Talking  and  eating,  he 
had  got  to  the  outlets,  and  was  swallowing  the  mashed 
potatoes  by  the  forkful,  when  he  fancied  he  could  detect  that 
Madame  Chaise  was  sulking  with  her  nephew.  'Gus- 
tave,'  he  suddenly  inquired,  '  have  you  asked  your  aunt's 
forgiveness?'  The  lad,  quite  astonished,  began  staring  at 
his  father  with  his  large  clear  eyes.  '  Yes,'  added  M.  Vig- 
neron, '  you  behaved  very  badly,  you  pushed  her  back  just 
now,. when  she  wanted  to  help  you  to  sit  up.' 

Madame  Chaise  said  nothing,  but  waited  with  a  dignified 
air,  whilst  Gustave,  who,  without  any  show  of  appetite,  was 
finishing  the  noix  of  his  cutlet,  which  had  been  cut  into  small 
pieces,  remained  with  his  eyes  lowered  on  his  plate,  this  time 
obstinately  refusing  to  make  the  sorry  show  of  affection  which 
was  demanded  of  him. 

'  Come,  Gustave,'  resumed  his  father,  '  be  a  good  boy 
You  know  how  kind  your  aunt  is,  and  all  that  she  intends  to 
do  for  you.' 

But  no,  he  would  not  yield.  At  that  moment,  indeed,  he 
really  hated  that  woman,  who  did  not  die  quickly  enough, 
who  polluted  the  affection  of  his  parents,  to  such  a  point  that 
when  he  saw  them  surround  him  with  attentions  he  no  longer 
knew  whether  it  were  himself  or  the  inheritance  which  his 
life  represented  that  they  wished  to  save.  However,  Madame 
Vigneron,  so  dignified  in  her  demeanour,  came  to  her  hus- 


band's  help.  '  You  really  grieve  me,  Gustave,'  said  she ; '  ask 
your  aunt's  forgiveness,  or  you  will  make  me  quite  angry  -with 

Thereupon  he  gave  way.  What  was  the  use  of  resisting  ? 
Was  it  not  better  that  his  parents  should  obtain  that  money  ? 
Would  he  not  himself  die  later  on,  so  as  to  suit  the  family  con- 
venience ?  He  was  aware  of  all  this ;  he  understood  everytiiing, 
even  when  not  a  word  was  ^oken.  So  keen  was  the  sense  of 
hearing  with  which  suffering  had  endowed  hiin,  that  he  even 
heard  the  others'  thoughts. 

'  I  beg  your  pardon,  aunt,'  he  said, '  for  not  having  behaved 
well  to  you  just  now.' 

Then  two  big  tears  rolled  down  from  his  eyes,  whilst  he 
smiled  with  the  air  of  a  tender-hearted  man  who  has  seen  too 
much  of  life  and  can  no  longer  be  deceived  by  anything. 
Madame  Chaise  at  once  kissed  him  and  told  him  that  she  was 
not  at  all  angry.  And  the  Yignerons'  delight  in  living  was 
displayed  in  all  candour. 

?;If  the  kidneys  are  not  up  to  much,'  M.  de  Guersaint  now 
said  to  Pierre, '  here,  at  all  events,  are  some  cauliflowers  with 
a  good  flavour.' 

The  formidable  mastication  was  still  going  on  around 
them.  Pierre  had  never  seen  such  an  amount  of  eating, 
amidst  such  perspiration,  in  an  atmosphere  as  stifling  as  that 
of  a  washhouse  fuU  of  hot  steam.  The  odour  of  the  victuals 
seemed  to  thicken  into  a  kind  of  smoke.  You  had  to  shout  to 
make  yourself  heard,  for  everybody  was  talking  in  loud  ton^s 
and  the  scared  waiters  raised  a  fearful  clatter  m  changing  the 
plates  and  forks :  not  to  mention  the  noise  of  all  the  jaw- 
crunching,  a  mill-like  grinding  which  was  distinctly  audible. 
What  most  hurt  the  feelings  of  the  young  priest,  however, 
was  the  extraordinary  promiscuity  of  the  tahle  d'Mte,  at  which 
men  and  women,  young  girls  and  ecclesiastics,  were  packed 
together  in  chance  order,  and  satisfied  their  hunger  like  a  pack 
of  hounds  snapping  at  offal  in  all  haste.  Baskets  of  bread 
went  round  and  were  promptly  emptied.  And  there  was  a 
perfect  massacre  of  cold  meats,  all  the  remnants  of  the  victuals 
of  the  day  before,  leg  of  mutton,  veal  and  ham,  encompassed 
by  a  fallen  mass  of  transparent  jelly  which  quivered  like  soft 
glue.  They  had  all  eaten  too  much  already,  but  these  viands 
seemed  to  whet  their  appetites  afresh,  as  though  the  idea  had 
come  to  them  that  nothing  whatever  ought  to  be  left.  The 
fat  priest  in  the  middle  of  the  table,  who  had  shown  himself 


Buch  a  capital  knife-and-fork,  was  now  lingering  over  the  fruit, 
having  just  got  to  his  third  peach,  a  huge  one,  which  he 
slowly  peeled  and  swallowed  in  slices  with  an  air  of  compunc- 

All  at  once,  however,  the  whole  room  was  thrown  into 
agitation.  A  waiter  had  come  in  and  begun  distributing  the 
letters  which  Madame  Maj estd  had  finished  sorting.  'Hallo ! ' 
exclainied  M.  Vigneron ;  '  a  letter  for  me  I  This  is  surprising 
— I  did  not  give  my  address  to  anybody.'  Then  at  a  sudden 
recollection  he  added,  *Yes  I  did,  though;  this  must  have 
come  from  Sauvageot,  who  is  filling  my  place  at  the  Ministry.' 
He  opened  the  letter,  his  hands  began  to  tremble,  and  sud- 
denly he  raised  a  cry :  '  The  chief  clerk  is  dead  ! ' 

Deeply  agitated,  Madame  Vigneron  was  also  unable  to 
bridle  her  tongue :  '  Then  you  will  have  the  appointment  1 ' 

This  was  the  secret  dream  in  which  they  had  so  long  and 
so  fondly  indulged :  the  chief  clerk's  death,  in  order  that  he, 
Vigneron,  assistant  chief  clerk  for  ten  years  past,  might  at 
last  rise  to  the  supreme  post,  the  bureaucratic  marshalship. 
And  so  great  was  his  delight  that  he  cast  aside  all  restraint. 
*  Ah  !  the  Blessed  Virgin  is  certainly  protecting  me,  my  dear. 
Only  this  morning  I  again  prayed  to  her  for  a  rise,  and,  you 
see,  she  grants  my  prayer  1 ' 

However,  finding  Madame  Chaise's  eyes  fixed  upon  his 
own,  and  seeing  Gustavo  smUe,  he  realised  that  he  ought  not 
to  exult  in  this  fashion.  Each  member  of  the  family  no 
doubt  thought  of  his  or  her  iaterests  and  prayed  to  the 
Blessed  Virgin  for  such  personal  favours  as  might  be  desired. 
And  so,  again  putting  on  his  good-natured  air,  he  resumed : 
,'  I  mean  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  takes  an  interest  in  every  one 
of  us  and  will  send  us  all  home  well  satisfied.  Ah !  the  poor 
chief,  I'm  sorry  for  him.  I  shall  have  to  send  my  card  to  his 

In  spite  of  all  his  efforts  he  could  not  restrain  his  exulta- 
tion, and  no  longer  doubted  that  his  most  secret  desires,  those 
which  he  did  not  even  confess  to  himself,  would  soon  be 
gratified.  And  so  all  honour  was  done  to  the  apricot  tarts, 
even  Gustavo  being  allowed  to  eat  a  portion  of  one. 

'  It  is  surprising,'  now  remarked  M.  de  Guersaint,  who 
had  just  ordered  a  cup  of  coffee ;  '  it  is  surprising  that  one 
doesn't  see  more  sick  people  here.  All  these  folk  seem  to 
me  to  have  first-rate  appetites.' 

After  a  close  inspection,  however,  vx  addition  to  Gustave, 


who  ate  no  more  than  a  little  chicken,  he  ended^  bj  finding  a 
man  with  a  goitre  seated  at  the  tahU  d'hdte  between  two 
women,  one  of  whom  certainly  suffered  from  cancer.  Far- 
ther on,  too,  there  was  a  girl  so  thin  and  pale  that  she  must 
surely  be  a  consumptive.  And  still  farther  away  there  was 
a  female  idiot  who  had  made  her  entry  leaning  on  two  rela- 
tives, and  with  expressionless  eyes  and  lifeless  features  was  now 
carrjring  her  food  to  her  mouth  with  a  spoon,  and  slobbering 
over  her  napkin.  Perhaps  there  were  yet  other  ailing  ones 
present  who  could  not  be  distinguished  among  all  those  noisy 
appetites,  ailing  ones  whom  the  journey  had  braced,  and 
who  were  eating  as  they  had  not  eaten  for  a  long  time  past. 
The  apricot  tarts,  the  cheese,  the  fruits  were  aU  engulfed 
amidst  the  increasing  disorder  of  the  table,  where  at  last  there 
only  remained  the  stains  of  all  the  wine  and  sauce  which  had 
been  spilt  upon  the  cloth. 

It  was  nearly  noon.  '  We  will  go  back  to  the  Grotto  at 
once,  eh?  '  said  M.  Vigneron. 

Indeed,  '  To  the  Grotto !  To  the  Grotto ! '  were  well-nigh 
the  only  words  you  now  heard.  The  full  mouths  were 
eagerly  masticating  and  swallowing,  in  order  that  they  might 
repeat  prayers  and  hymns  again  with  all  speed. 

'  "Well,  as  we  have  the  whole  afternoon  before  us,'  declared 
M.  de  Guersaint,  '  I  suggest  that  we  should  visit  the  town  a 
little.  I  want  to  see  also  if  I  can  get  a  conveyance  for  my 
excursion,  as  my  daughter  so  particularly  wishes  me  to  make 

Pierre,  who  was  stifling,  was  glad  indeed  to  leave  the 
dining-room.  In  the  porch  he  was  able  to  breathe  again, 
though  even  there  he  found  a  torrent  of  customers,  new 
arrivals  who  were  waiting  for  places.  No  sooner  did  one  of 
the  little  tables  become  vacant  than  its  possession  was 
eagerly  contested,  whilst  the  smallest  gap  at  the  tahle  d'hdte 
was  instantly  fiUed  up.  In  this  wise  the  assault  would  con- 
tinue for  more  than  another  hour,  and  again  would  the 
different  courses  of  the  menu  appear  in  procession,  to  be 
engulfed  amidst  the  crunching  of  jaws,  the  stifling  heat,  and 
the  growing  nausea. 




When  Pierre  and  M.  de  Guersaint  got  outside  tbey  began  walk- 
ing slowly  amidst  the  ever-growing  stream  of  the  Sundayfied 
crowd.  The  sky  was  a  bright  blue,  the  sun  warmed  the  whole 
town,  and  there  was  a  festive  gaiety  in  the  atmosphere,  the 
keen  delight  that  attends  those  great  fairs  which  bring  entire 
communities  into  the  open  air.  When  they  had  descended 
the  crowded  footway  of  the  Avenue  de  la  Grotte,  and  had 
reached  the  comer  of  the  Plateau  de  la  Merlasse,  they  found 
their  way  barred  by  a  throng  which  was  slowly  flowing  back- 
ward amidst  a  block  of  vehicles  and  stamping  of  horses. 
*  There  is  no  hurry,  however,'  remarked  M.  de  Guersaint. 
'  My  idea  is  to  go  as  far  as  the  Place  du  Marcadal  in  the  pld 
town ;  for  the  servant  girl  at  the  hotel  told  me  of  a  hair- 
dresser there  whose  brother  lets  out  conveyances  cheaply. 
Do  you  mind  going  so  far  ? ' 

'  I  ? '  replied  Pierre.  '  Go  wherever  you  like,  I'll  follow 

'All  right — and  I'll  profit  by  the  opportunity  to  have 
a  shave.' 

They  were  nearing  the  Place  du  Eosaire,  and  found  them- 
selves in  front  of  the  lawns  stretching  to  the  Gave,  when 
an  encounter  again  stopped  them.  Mesdames  D^sagneaux  and 
Baymonde  de  Jonqui^re  were  here,  chatting  gaily  with  young 
Gerard  de  Peyrelongue.  Both  women  wore  light-coloured 
gowns,  seaside  dresses  as  it  were,  and  their  white  silk  parasols 
shone  in  the  bright  sunlight.  They  irdparted,  so  to  say,  a 
pretty  note  to  the  scene — a  touch  of  society  chatter  blended 
with  the  fresh  laughter  of  youth. 

'  No,  no,'  Madame  D6sagneaux  was  saying, '  we  certainly 
can't  go  and  visit  your  "  ordinary  "  like  that — at  the  very 
moment  when  all  your  comrades  are  eating.' 

Gerard,  however,  with  a  very  gallant  air,  insisted  on  their 
accompanying  him,  turning  more  particularly  towards  Bay- 
monde, whose  somewhat  massive  face  was  that  day  brightened 
by  the  radiant  charm  of  health. 

'But  it  is  a  very  curious  sight,  I  assure  you,'  said  the 
young  man,  •  and  you  would  be  very  respectfully  received. 
Trust  yourself  to  me,  mademoiselle.    Besides,  we  should 


certainly  find  M.  Berthaud  there,  and  be  wotdd  be  deligbted 
to  do  you  the  honours.' 

Eaymonde  smiled,  her  clear  eyes  plainly  saying  that  she 
was  quite  agreeable.  And  just  then,  as  Pierre  and  M.  de 
Guersaint  drew  near  in  order  to  present  their  respects  to  the 
ladies,  they  were  made  acquainted  with  the  question  under 
discussion.  The  <  ordinary '  was  a  Mnd  of  restaurant  or  table 
d'hdte  which  the  members  of  the  Hospitality  of  Our  Lady  of 
Salvation — the  bearers,  the  hospitallers  of  the  Grotto,  the 
piscinas  and  the  hospitals — had  established  among  themselves 
with  the  view  of  taking  their  meals  together  at  small  cost. 
Many  of  them  were  not  rich,  for  they  were  recruited  among 
all  classes  ;  however,  they  bad  contrived  to  secure  three  good 
meals  for  a  daily  payment  of  three  francs  apiece.  And  in 
fact  they  often  had  provisions^  to  spare  and  distributed  them 
among  the  poor.  Everything  was  in  their  own  management : 
they  purchased  their  own  supplies,  recruited  a  cook  and  a  few 
waiters,  and  did  not  disdain  to  lend  a  hand  themselves,  in 
order  that  everything  might  be  comfortable  and  orderly. 

'  It  must  be  very  interesting,'  said  M.  de  Guersaint  when 
these  explanations  bad  been  given  him.  '  Let  us  go  and  see 
it,  if  we  are  not  in  the  way.' 

Little  Madame  Ddsagneaux  thereupon  gave  her  consent. 
'  Well,  if  we  are  going  in  a  party,'  said  she,  '  I  am  quite 
wilUng.  But  when  this  gentleman  first  proposed  to  take  me 
and  Baymonde,  I  was  afraid  that  it  might  not  be  quite 

Then,  as  she  began  to  laugh,  the  others  followed  her 
example.  She  had  accepted  M.  de  Guersaint's  arm,  and 
Pierre  walked  beside  her  on  the  other  hand,  experiencing  a 
sudden  feeling  of  sympathy  for  this  gay  little  woman,  who  was 
so  full  of  life  and  so  charming  with  her  fair  frizzy  hair  and 
creamy  complexion. 

Behind  them  came  Baymonde,  leaning  upon  Gerard's  arm 
and  talking  to  him  in  the  calm,  staid  voice  of  a  young  lady 
who  holds  the  best  of  principles  despite  her  air  of  heedless 
youth.  And  since  here  was  the  husband  whom  she  bad  so 
often  dreamt  of,  she  resolved  that  she  would  this  time  secure 
bim,  make  him  beyond  all  question  her  own.  She  intoxicated 
him  with  the  perfume  of  health  and  youth  which  she  diffused, 
and  at  the  same  time  astonished  him  by  her  knowledge  of 
housewifely  duties  and  of  the  manner  in  which  money  may  be 
economised  even  in  the  most  trifling  matters;  for  having 

THE  *  ORDINARY'  219 

questioned  him  with  regard  to  the  purchases  which  he  and 
his  comrades  made  for  their  '  ordinary,'  she  proceeded  to  show 
him  that  they  might  have  reduced  their  expenditure  still 

Meantime  M.  de  Guersaint  and  Madame  Dfisagneaus  were 
also  chatting  together :  'You  must  he  fearfully  tired,  madame,' 
said  the  architect. 

But  with  a  gesture  of  revolt,  and  an  exclamation  of 
genuine  anger,  she  replied :  '  Oh  no,  indeed !  Last  night,  it  is 
true,  fatigue  quite  overcame  me  at  the  hospital ;  I  sat  down 
and  dozed  off,  and  Madame  de  Jonqui^re  and  the  other  ladies 
were  good  enough  to  let  me  sleep  on.'  At  this  the  others 
again  began  to  laugh  ;  but  stiU  with  the  same  angry  air  she 
continued :  '  And  so  I  slept  like  a  log  until  this  morning.  It 
was  disgraceful,  especially  as  I  had  sworn  that  I  would 
remain  up  all  night.'  Then,  merriment  gaining  upon  her  in 
her  turn,  she  suddenly  burst  into  a  sonorous  laugh,  displaying 
her  beautiful  white  teeth.  '  Ah  !  a  pretty  nurse  I  am,  and  no 
mistake  1  It  was  poor  Madame  de  JonquiSre  who  had  to 
remain  on  her  legs  all  the  time.  I  tried  to  coax  her  to  come 
out  with  us  just  now.    But  she  preferred  to  take  a  little  rest.' 

.Baymonde,  who  overheard  these  words,  thereupon  raised 
her  voice  to  say:  'Yes,  indeed,  my  poor  mamma  could  no 
longer  keep  on  her  feet.  It  was  I  who  compelled  her  to  He 
down,  teUing  her  that  she  could  go  to  sleep  without  any 
uneasiness,  for  we  should  get  on  all  right  without 
her ' 

So  saying,  the  girl  gave  Gerard  a  laughing  glance.  He 
even  fancied  that  he  could  detect  a  faint  squeeze  of  the 
fresh  round  arm  which  was  resting  on  his  own,  as  though, 
indeed,  she  had  wished  to  express  her  happiness  at  being  alone 
(rith  him  so  that  they  might  settle  their  own  affairs  without 
any  interference.  This  quite  delighted  him ;  and  he  began 
to  explain  that  if  he  had  hot  haAdijeuner  with  his  comrades 
that  day,  it  was  because  some  friends  had  invited  him  to  join 
them  at  the  railway-station  refreshment-room  at  ten  o'clock, 
and  had  not  given  him  his  liberty  until  after  the  departure 
of  the  eleven-thirty  train. 

'  Ah  1  the  rascals  I '  he  suddenly  resumed.  '  Do  you  hear 
them,  mademoiselle  ? ' 

The  little  party  was  now  nearing  its  destination,  and  the 
uproarious  laughter  and  chatter  of  youth  rang  out  from  a 
clump  of  trees  which  concealed  the  old  zinc  and  plaster 

220  lovrdes 

building  in  which  the  'ordinary'  was  installed.  Gdrard 
began  by  taking  the  visitors  into  the  kitchen,  a  very  spacious 
apartment,  well  fitted  up,  and  containing  a  huge  range  and 
an  immense  table,  to  say  nothing  of  numerous  gigantic 
cauldrons.  Here,  moreover,  the  young  man  called  the  atten- 
tion of  his  companions  to  the  circumstance  that  the  cookj  a 
fat,  jovial  looking  man,  had  the  red  cross  pinned  on  his  white 
jacket,  being  himself  a  member  of  the  pilgrimage.  Then,- 
pushing  open  a  door,  Gerard  invited  his  friends  to  enter  the 
common  room. 

It  was  a  long  apartment  containing  two  rows  of  plain  deal 
tables ;  and  the  only  other  articles  of  fumitiure  were  the 
numerous  rush-seated  tavern  chairs,  with  an  additional  table 
which  served  as  a  sideboard.  The  whitewashed  walls  and 
the  flooring  of  shiny  red  tiles  looked,  however,  extremely 
clean  amidst  this  intentional  bareness,  which  was  similar  to 
that  of  a  monkish  refectory.  But  the  feature  of  the  place 
which  more  particularly  struck  you,  as  you  crossed  the 
threshold,  was  the  childish  gaiety  which  reigned  there ;  for, 
packed  together  at  the  tables,  were  a  hundred  and  fifty  hos- 
pitallers of  all  ages,  eating  with  splendid  appetites,  laughing, 
applauding,  and  singing  with  their  mouths  full.  A  wondrous 
fraternity  united  these  men,  who  had  flocked  to  Lourdes  from 
every  province  of  France,  and  who  belonged  to  all  classes 
and  represented  every  degree  of  fortune.  Many  of  them 
knew  nothing  of  one  another,  save  that  they  met  here  and 
elbowed  one  another  during  three  days  every  year,  living 
together  like  brothers,  and  then  going  off  and  remaining  in 
absolute  ignorance  of  each  other  during  the  rest  of  the  twelve- 
month. Nothiag  could  be  more  charming,  however,  than  to 
meet  again  at  the  next  pilgrimage,  nnited  in  the  same  chari- 
table work,  and  to  spend  a  few  days  of  hard  labour  and  boyish 
delight  in  common  once  more ;  for  it  all  became,  as  it  were, 
an  '  outing '  of  a  number  of  big  fellows,  let  loose  under  a 
lovely  sky,  and  well  pleased  to  be  able  to  enjoy  themselves 
and  laugh  together.  And  even  the  frugaUty  of  the  table, 
with  the  pride  of  managing  things  themselves,  of  eating  the 
provisions  which  they  had  purchased  and  cooked,  added  to 
the  general  good  humour. 

'  You  see,'  explained  Gerard, '  we  are  not  at  all  inclined  to 
be  sad,  although  we  have  so  much  hard  work  to  get  through. 
The  Hospitality  numbers  more  than  three  hundred  members, 
but  there  are  only  about  one  hundred  and  fifty  here  at  a  time, 


for  we  have  had  to  organise  two  successive  Services,  so  that 
there  may  always  be  some  of  us  on  duty  at  the  Grotto  and  the 

The  sight  of  the  little  party  of  visitors  assembled  on  the 
threshold  of  the  room  seemed  to  have  increased  the  general 
delight;  and  Berthaud,  the  Superintendent  of  the  Bearers, 
who  was  lunching  at  the  head  of  one  of  the  tables,  gallantly 
rose  up  to  receive  the  ladies. 

'  But  it  smells  very  nice,'  exclaimed  Madame  D^sagneaux 
in  her  giddy  way.  '  Won't  you  invite  us  to  come  and  taste  your 
cookery  to-morrow  ?  ' 

'  Oh !  we  can't  ask  ladies,'  replied  Berthaud,  laughing. 
'  But  if  you  gentlemen  would  like  to  join  us  to-morrow  we 
should  be  extremely  pleased  to  entertain  you." 

He  had  at  once  noticed  the  good  understanding  which  pre- 
vailed between  Gerard  and  Eaymonde,  and  seemed  delighted 
at  it,  for  he  greatly  wished  his  cousin  to  make  this  match. 
He  laughed  pleasantly  at  the  enthusiastic  gaiety  which  the 
young  girl  displayed  as  she  began  to  question  him.  '  Is  not 
that  the  Marquis  de  Salmon-Eoquebert,'  she  asked, '  who  is 
sitting  over  yonder  between  these  two  young  men  who  look 
like  shop  assistants  ? ' 

'  They  are,  in  fact,  the  sons  of  a  small  stationer  at  Tarbes,' 
replied :  Berthaud ;  '  and  that  is  really  the  Marquis,  your 
neighbour  of  the  Eue  de  Lille,  the  owner  of  that  magnificent 
mansion,  one  of  the  richest  and  most  noble  men  of  title  in 
France.    You  see  how  he  is  enjoying  our  mutton  stew !  ' 

It  was  true,  the  millionaire  Marquis  seemed  delighted  to 
be  able  to  board  himself  for  his  three  francs  a  day,  and  to  sit 
down  at  table  in  genuine  democratic  fashion  by  the  side  of 
petty  bourgeois  and  workmen  who  would  not  have  dared  to 
accost  him  in  the  street.  Was  not  that  chance  table 
symboUcal  of  social  communion,  effected  by  the  joint  practice 
of  charity  ?  For  his  part,  the  Marquis  was  the  more  hungry 
that  day,  as  he  had  bathed  over  sixty  patients,  sufferers  from 
all  the  most  abominable  diseases  of  unhappy  humanity,  at  the 
piscinas  that  morning.  And  the  scene  around  him  seemed 
like  a  realisation  of  the  evangelical  commonalty ;  but  doubt- 
less it  was  so  charming  and  so  gay  simply  because  its  duration 
was  limited  to  three  dkys. 

Although  Guersaint  had  but  lately  risen  from  table, 
his'  curiosity  prompted  him  to  taste  the  mutton  stew,  and  he 
pronounced  it  perfect.    Meantime,  Pierre  caught  sight  of 


Baron  Snire,  the  director  of  the  Hospitality,  waUdng  ahout 
between  the  rows  of  tables  with  an  air  of  some  importance,  as 
though  he  had  allotted  himself  the  task  of  keeping  an  eye  on 
everything,  even  on  the  manner  in  which  his  staff  fed  itself. 
The  young  priest  thereupon  remembered  the  ardent  desire 
which  Marie  had  expressed  to  spend  the  night  in  front  of  the 
Grotto,  and  it  occurred  to  him  that  the  Baron  might  be 
wilUng  to  give  the  necessary  authorisation. 

*  Certainly,'  replied  the  director,  who  had  become  quite 
grave  whilst  listening  to  Pierre, '  we  do  sometimes  aUow  it ; 
but  it  is  always  a  very  delicate  matter  !  You  assure  me  at 
all  events  that  this  young  person  is  not  consumptive  ?  Well, 
well,  since  you  say  that  she  so  much  desires  it  I  wiU  mention 
the  matter  to  Father  Fourcade  and  warn  Madame  de 
Jonqui^re,  so  that  she  may  let  you  take  the  young  lady 

He  was  in  reality  a  very  good-natured  fellow,  albeit 
so  fond  of  assuming  the  air  of  an  indispensable  man  weighed 
down  by  the  heaviest  responsibilities.  In  his  turn  he  now 
detained  the  visitors,  and  gave  them  fall  particulars  concern- 
ing the  organisation  of  the  Hospitality.  Its  members  said 
prayers  together  every  morning.  Two  board  meetings  were 
held  each  day,  and  were  attended  by  all  the  heads  of  depart- 
ments, as  well  as  by  the  reverend  Fathers  and  some  of  the 
chaplains.  All  the  hospitallers  took  the  Sacrament  as  fre< 
quently  as  possible.  And,  moreover,  there  were  many  compli- 
cated tasks  to  be  attended  to,  a  prodigious  rotation  of  duties, 
quite  a  little  world  to  be  governed  with  a  firm  hand.  The 
Baron  spoke  hke  a  general  who  each  year  gains  a  great 
victory  over  the  spirit  of  the  age;  and,  sending  Berthaud 
back  to  finish  his  dijeun&r,  he  insisted  on  escorting  the  ladies 
into  the  little  sanded  courtyard,  which  was  shaded  by  some 
Gne  trees. 

'  It  is  very  interesting,  very  interesting,'  repeated  Madame 
D^sagneaux.  '  We  are  greatly  obhged  to  you  for  your  kindness, 

'  Don't  mention  it,  don't  mention  it,  madame,'  answered 
the  Baron.  '  It  is  I  who  am  pleased  at  having  had  an  oppor- 
tunity to  show  you  my  httle  army." 

So  far  G&'ard  had  not  quitted  Eaymonde's  side ;  but 
M.  de  Guersaint  and  Pierre  were  already  exchanging  glances 
suggestive  of  leave-taking,  in  order  that  they  might  repair  by 
themselves  to  the  Place  du  Marcadal,  when  Madame  Dfeag- 

THE  *  ORDINARY*  223 

neaux  suddenly  remembered  that  a  friend  had  requested  her 
to  send  her  a  bottle  of  Lourdea  water.  And  she  thereupon 
asked  Gdrard  how  she  tras  to  execute  this  commission.  The 
young  man  began  to  laugh.  '  Will  you  again  accept  me  as  a 
guide  ? '  said  he.  '  And,  by  the  way,  if  these  gentlemen  like  to 
come  as  well,  I  wiU  show  you  the  place  where  the  bottles  are 
filled,  corked,  packed  in  cases,  and  then  sent  off.  It  is  a 
curious  sight.' 

M.  de  Guersaint  immediately  consented ;  and  aU  five  of 
them  set  out  again,  Madame  D^sagneaux  still  between  the 
architect  and  the  priest,  whilst  Baymonde  and  Gdrard 
brought  up  the  rear.  The  crowd  in  the  burning  sunlight  was 
increasing ;  the  Place  du  Eosaire  was  now  overflowing  with  an 
idle  sauntering  mob  resembling  some  concourse  of  sightseers 
on  a  day  of  public  rejoicing. 

The  bottling  and  packing  shops  were  situated  under  one 
of  the  arches  on  the  left-hand  side  of  the  Place.  They  formed 
a  suite  of  three  apartments  of  very  simple  aspect.  In  the 
first  one  the  bottles  were  filled  in  the  most  ordinary  of 
fashions.  A  httle  green-painted  zinc  barrel,  not  unlike  a 
watering-cask,  was  dragged  by  a  man  from  the  Grotto,  and 
the  light-coloured  bottles  were  then  simply  filled  at  its  tap, 
one  by  one;  the  blouse-clad  workman  entrusted  with  the 
duty  exercising  no  particular  watchfulness  to  prevent  the 
water  from  overflowing.  In  fact  there  was  quite  a  puddle  of 
it  upon  the  ground.  There  were  no  labels  on  the  bottles ; 
the  little  leaden  capsules  placed  over  the  corks  alone  bore  an 
inscription,  and  they  were  coated  with  a  kind  of  ceruse, 
doubtless  to  ensure  preservation.  Then  came  two  other 
rooms  which  formed  regular  packing  shops,  with  carpenters' 
benches,  tools,  and  heaps  of  shavings.  The  boxes,  most 
frequently  made  for  one  bottle  or  for  two,  were  put  together 
with  great  care,  and  the  bottles  were  deposited  inside  them, 
on  beds  of  fine  wood  parings.  The  scene  reminded  one  in 
some  degree  of  the  packing  halls  for  flowers  at  Nice  and  for 
preserved  fruits  at  Grasse. 

Gerard  went  on  giving  explanations  with  a  quiet,  satisfied 
air.  '  The  water,'  he  said, '  really  comes  from  the  Grotto  as 
you  can  yourselves  see,  so  that  all  the  foolish  jokes  which  one 
hears  reaUy  have  no  basis.  And  everything  is  perfectly 
simple;  natural,  and  goes  on  in  the  broad  daylight.  I  would 
also  point  out  to  you  that  the  Fathers  don't  seU  the  water  as 
they  are  accused  of  doing.    For  instance,  a  bottle  of  watei 


here  costs  twenty  centimes  (2i.),  which  is  only  the  price 
of  the  bottle  itself.  If  you  wish  to  have  it  sent  to  anybody 
you  naturally  have  to  pay  for  the  packing  and  the  carriage, 
and  then  it  costs  you  one  franc  and  seventy  centimes  (Is.  4d.). 
However,  you  are  perfectly  at  liberty  to  go  to  the  source  and  fill 
the  flasks  and  cans  and  other  receptacles  that  you  may  choose 
to  bring  with  you.' 

Pierre  reflected  that  the  profits  of  the  reverend  Fathers  in 
this  respect  could  not  be  very  large  ones,  for  their  gains  were 
limited  to  what  they  made  by  manufacturing  the  boxes  and  sup- 
plying the  bottles,  which  latter,  purchased  by  the  thousand, 
certainly  did  not  cost  them  so  much  as  twenty  centimes  apiece. 
However,  Eaymonde  and  Madame  D^sagneaux,  as  well  as 
M.  de  Guersaint,  who  had  such  a  lively  imagination,  experi- 
enced deep  disappointment  at  sight  of  the  little  green  barrel,  the 
capsules,  sticky  with  ceruse,  and  the  piles  of  shavings  lying 
around  the  benches.  They  had  doubtless  imagined  all  sorts 
of  ceremonies,  the  observance  of  certain  rites  in  bottling  the 
miraculous  water,  priests  ia  vestments  pronouncing  blessings, 
and  choirboys  singing  hymns  of  praise  in  pure  crystalline 
voices.  For  his  part,  Pierre,  in  presence  of  all  this  vulgar 
bottling  and  packmg,  ended  by  thinking  of  the  active  power  of 
faith.  When  one  of  those  bottles  reaches  some  far-away  sick- 
room, and  is  unpacked  there,  and  the  sufferer  falls  upon  his 
knees,  and  so  excites  himself  by  contemplating  and  drinking 
the  pure  water  that  he  actually  brings  about  the  cure  of  his 
ailment,  there  must  truly  be  a  most  extraordinary  plunge  into 
all-powerful  illusion. 

'  Ah  ! '  exclaimed  Gerard,  as  they  came  out, '  would  you 
like  to  see  the  storehouse  where  the  tapers  are  kept  before 
going  to  the  offices  ?    It  is  only  a  couple  of  steps  away.' 

And  then,  not  even  waiting  for  their  answer,  he  led  them 
to  the  opposite  side  of  the  Place  du  Eosaire.  His  one  desire 
was  to  amuse  Eaymonde,  but,  in  point  of  fact,  the  aspect  of 
the  place  where  the  tapers  were  stored  was  even  less 
entertaining  than  that  of  the  packing-rooms  which  they  had 
just  left.  This  storehouse,  a  kind  of  deep  vault  under  one  of 
the  right-hand  arches  of  the  Place,  was  divided  by  timber  into 
a  number  of  spacious  compartments,  in  which  lay  an  extra- 
ordinary collection  of  tapers,  classified  according  to  size.  The 
overplus  of  all  the  tapers  ofl'ered  to  the  Grotto  was  deposited 
here  ;  and  such  was  the  number  of  these  superfluous  candles 
that  the  little  conveyances  stationed  near  the  Grotto-railing, 

THE  < ORDINARY'  225 

ready  to  receive  the  pilgrims'  offerings,  had  to  be  brought  to 
the  storehouse  several  times  a  day  in  order  to  be  emptied 
there,  after  which  they  were  returned  to  the  Grotto,  and  were 
promptly  filled  again.  In  theory,  each  taper  that  was 
offered  ought  to  have  been  burnt  at  the  feet  of  the  Virgin's 
statue ;  but  so  great  was  the  number  of  these  offerings,  that, 
although  a  couple  of  hundred  tapers  of  all  sizes  were  kept 
burning  by  day  and  night,  it  was  impossible  to  exhaust  the 
supply,  which  went  on  increasing  and  increasing.  There  was 
a  rumour  that  the  Fathers  could  not  even  find  room  to  store  all 
this  wax,  but  had  to  sell  it  over  and  over  again ;  and,  indeed, 
certain  friends  of  the  Grotto  confessed,  with  a -touch  of  pride, 
that  the  profit  on  the  tapers  alone  would  have  sufficed  to 
defray  all  the  expenses  of  the  business. 

The  quantity  of  these  votive  candles  quite  stupefied  Eay- 
monde  and  Madame  D^sagneaux.  How  many,  how  many 
there  were !  The  smaller  ones,  costing  from  fifty  centimes  to 
a  franc  apiece,  were  piled  up  in  fabulous  numbers.  M.  de 
Guersaint,  desirous  of  getting  at  the  exact  figures,  quite  lost 
himself  in  the  puzzling  calculation  he  attempted.  As  for  Pierre, 
it  was  in  silence  that  he  gazed  upon  this  mass  of  wax,  destined 
to  be  burnt  in  open  dayUght  to  the  glory  of  God ;  and  although 
he  was  by  no  means  a  rigid  utilitarian,  and  could  well  under 
stand  that  some  apparent  acts  of  extravagance  yield  an 
illusive  enjoyment  and  satisfaction  which  provide  humanity 
with  as  much  sustenance  as  bread,  he  could  not,  on  the  other 
hand,  refi:ain  from  reflecting  on  the  many  benefits  which 
might  have  been  conferred  on  the  poor  and  the  aiUng  with  the 
money  represented  by  all  that  wax,  which  would  fly  away  in 

'  But  come,  what  about  that  bottle  which  I  am  to  send 
off  ? '  abruptly  asked  Madame  D6sagneaux. 

'We  will  go  to  the  office,'  replied  Gerard.     'In  five 
minutes  everything  will  be  settled.' 

They  had  to  cross  the  Place  du  Eosaire  once  more  and 

ascend  the  stone  stairway  leading  to  the  Basilica.     The 

■  office  was  up  above,  on  the  left  hand,  at  the  comer  of  the 

path  leading  to  the  Calvary.    The  building  was  a  paltry  one, 

a  hut  of  lath  and  plaster  which  the  wind  and  the  rain  had 

reduced  to  a  state  of  ruin.    On  a  board  outside  was  the 

inscription :  '  Apply  here  with  reference  to  Masses,  Offerings, 

and   Brotherhoods.    Forwarding  office   for  Lourdes  water. 

Subscriptions  to  the  "Annals  of  0.  L.  of  Lourdes,"  '    How 



many  millions  of  people  must  have  already  passed  through 
this  -wretched  shanty,  which  seemed  to  date&om  the  innocent 
days  when  the  foundations  of  the  adjacent  Basilica  had 
scarcely  been  laid  1 

The  whole  party  went  in,  eager  to  see  what  might  be 
inside.  But  they  simply  found  a  wicket  at  which  Madame 
D^sagneaux  had  to  stop  in  order  to  give  her  friend's  name 
and  address ;  and  when  she  had  paid  one  franc  and  seventy 
centimes,  a  small  printed  receipt  was  handed  her,  such  as  you 
receive  on  registering  luggage  at  a  railway  station. 

As  soon  as  they  were  outside  again  Gerard  pointed  to  a 
large  building  standing  two  or  three  hundred  yards  away, 
and  resumed :  '  There,  that  is  where  the  Fathers  reside.' 

'  But  we  see  nothing  of  them,'  remarked  Pierre. 

This  observation  so  astonished  the  young  man  that  he 
remained  for  a  moment  without  replying.  '  It's  true,'  he  at 
last  said,  'we  do  not  see  them,  but  then  they  give  up  the 
custody  of  everything — the  Grotto  and  all  the  rest— to  the 
Fathers  of  the  Assumption  during  the  national  pilgri- 

Pierre  looked  at  the  building  which  had  been  pointed  out 
to  him,  and  noticed  that  it  was  a  massive  stone  pile  resembUng 
a  fortress.  The  windows  were  closed,  and  the  whole  edifice 
looked  lifeless.  Yet  everything  at  Lourdes  came  from  it,  and 
to  it  also  everything  returned.  It  seemed,  in  fact,  to  the 
young  priest  that  he  could  hear  the  silent,  formidable,  rake- 
stroke  which  extended  over  the  entire  valley,  which  caught 
hold  of  aU  who  had  come  to  the  spot,  and  placed  both  the 
gold  and  the  blood  of  the  throng  in  the  clutches  of  thosft 
reverend  Fathers  !  However,  Gerard  just  then  resumed  in  a 
low  voice  :  '  But  come,  they  do  show  themselves,  for  here  is 
the  reverend  superior,  Father  Capdebarthe  himself.' 

An  ecclesiastic  was  indeed  just  passing,  a  man  vrith  the 
appearance  of  a  peasant,  a  knotty  frame,  and  a  large  head 
which  looked  as  though  carved  with  a  billhook.  His  opaque 
eyes  were  quite  expressionless,  and  his  face,  with  its  worn 
features,  had  retained  a  loamy  tint,  a  gloomy,  russet  reflec- 
tion of  the  earth.  Monseigneur  Laurence  had  really  made  a 
poUtio  selection  in  confiding  the  organisation  and  manage- 
ment of  the  Grotto  to  those  Garaison  missionaries,  who  were 
so  tenacious  and  covetous,  for  the  most  part  sons  of  mountain 
peasants  and  passionately  attached  to  the  soil. 

However,  the  little  party  now  slowly  retraced  its  steps  by 


way  of  the  Plateau  de  la  Merlasse,  the  broad  boulevard  which 
skirts  the  inclined  way  on  the  left  hand  and  leads  to  the 
Avenue  de  la  Grotte.  It  was  already  past  one  o'clock,  but 
people  were  still  eating  their  d&jeuners  from  one  to  the  other 
end  of  the  overflowing  town.  Many  of  the  fifty  thousand 
pilgrims  and  sightseers  collected  within  it  had  not  yet  been 
able  to  sit  down  and  eat ;  and  Pierre,  who  had  left  the  table 
d'hdte  stiU  crowded,  who  had  just  seen  the  hospitallers 
squeezing  together  so  gaily  at  the  '  ordinary,'  found  more  and 
more  tables  at  each  step  he  took.  On  all  sides  people  were 
eating,  eating  without  a  pause.  Hereabouts,  however,  in  the 
open  air,  on  either  side  of  the  broad  road,  the  hungry  ones 
were  humble  folk  who  had  rushed  upon  the  tables  set  up  on 
either  footway — tables  formed  of  a  couple  of  long  boards, 
flanked  by  two  forms,  and  shaded  from  the  sun  by  narrow 
hnen  awnings.  Broth  and  coffee  were  sold  at  these  places  at 
a  penny  the  cup.  The  little  loaves  heaped  up  in  high  baskets 
also  cost  a  penny  apiece.  Hanging  from  the  poles  which 
upheld  the  awnings  were  sausages,  chitterlings,  and  hams. 
Some  of  the  open-air  restaurateurs  were  frying  potatoes,  and 
others  were  concocting  more  or  less  savoury  messes  of  inferior 
meat  and  onions.  A  pungent  smoke,  a  violent  odour,  arose 
into  the  sunlight,  mingling  with  the  dust  which  was  raised 
by  the  continuous  tramp  of  the  promenaders.  Eows  of  people, 
moreover,  were  waiting  at  each  cantine,  so  that  each  time  a 
party  rose  from  table  fresh  customers  took  possession  of  the 
benches  ranged  beside  the  oilcloth-covered  planks,  which  were 
so  narrow  that  there  was  scarcely  room  for  two  bowls  of  soup 
to  be  placed  side  by  side.  And  one  and  all  made  haste,  and 
devoured  with  the  ravenous  hunger  born  of  their  fatigue,  that 
insatiable  appetite  which  so  often  follows  upon  great  moral 
shocks.  In  fact,  when  the  mind  had  exhausted  itself  in 
prayer,  when  everything  physical  had  been  forgotten  amidst 
the  mental  flight  into  the  legendary  heavens,  the  human 
animal  suddenly  appeared,  again  asserted  itself,  and  began  to 
gorge.  Moreover,  under  that  dazzling  Sunday  sky,  the  scene 
was  Uke  that  of  a  fair-field  with  all  the  gluttony  of  a  merry- 
making community,  a  display  of  the  delight  which  they  felt 
in  living,  despite  the  multiplicity  of  their  abominable  ailments 
and  the  dearth  of  the  miracles  they  hoped  for. 

'They  eat,  they  amuse  themselves,  what  else  can  one 
expect?'  remarked  G&ard,  guessing  the  thoughts  of  his 
amiable  companions, 



'  Ah  I  poor  people ! '  mumnired  Pierre,  *  they  have  a 
perfect  right  to  do  so,' 

He  was  greatly  touched  to  see  human  nature  reassert 
itself  in  this  fashion.  However,  when  they  had  got  to  the 
lower  part  of  the  boulevard  near  the  Grotto,  his  feelings  were 
hurt  at  sight  of  the  desperate  eagerness  displayed  by  the 
female  vendors  of  tapers  and  bouquets,  who  with  the  rough 
fierceness  of  conquerors  assailed  the  passers-by  in  bands. 
They  were  mostly  young  women,  with  bare  heads,  or  with 
kerchiefs  tied  over  their  hair,  and  they  displayed  extraordinary 
effrontery.  Even  the  old  ones  were  scarcely  more  discreet. 
With  parcels  of  tapers  under  their  arms,  they  brandished  the 
one  which  they  offered  for  sale  and  even  thrust  it  into  the 
hand  of  the  promenader.  '  Monsieur,' '  madame,'  they  called, 
'  buy  a  taper,  buy  a  taper,  it  will  bring  you  luck ! '  One 
gentleman,  who  was  surroimded  and  shaken  by  three  of  the 
youngest  of  these  harpies,  almost  lost  the  skirts  of  his  frock- 
coat  in  attempting  to  escape  their  clutches.  Then  the  scene 
began  afresh  with  the  bouquets — large  round  bouquets  they 
were,  carelessly  fastened  together  and  looking  like  cabbages. 
*  A  bouquet,  madame ! '  was  the  cry.  '  A  bouquet  for  the 
Blessed  Virgin ! '  If  the  lady  escaped  she  heard  muttered 
insults  behind  her.  Trafficking,  impudent  trafficking,  pur- 
sued the  pUgrims  to  the  very  outskirts  of  the  Grotto.  Trade 
was  not  merely  triumphantly  installed  in  every  one  of  the 
shops,  standing  close  together  and  transforming  each  street 
into  a  bazaar,  but  it  overran  the  footways  and  barred  the 
road  with  hand-carts  full  of  chaplets,  medals,  statuettes,  and 
reUgious  prints.  On  all  sides  people  were  buying  almost  to 
the  same  extent  as  they  ate,  in  order  that  they  might  take 
away  with  them  some  souvenir  of  this  holy  Kermesse.  And 
the  bright  gay  note  of  this  commercial  eagerness,  this  scramble 
of  hawkers,  was  suppUed  by  the  urchins  who  rushed  about 
through  the  crowd,  crying  the  '  Jom-nal  de  la  Grotte.*  Their 
sharp  shrill  voices  pierced  the  ear :  '  The  "  Journal  de  la 
Grotte,"  this  morning's  number,  two  sous,  the  "  Journal  de  la 
Grotte." ' 

Amidst  the  continual  pushing  which  accompanied  the 
eddying  of  the  ever-moving  crowd,  Gerard's  httle  party 
became  separated.  He  and  Eaymonde  remained  behind  the 
others.  They  had  begun  talking  together  in  low  tones,  with 
an  air  of  smiling  intimacy,  lost  and  isolated  as  they  were  in 
the  dense  crowd,    An^  Madame  D^sagneaux  at  last  had  to 

THE  *  ORDINARY'  229 

stop,  look  back,  and  call  to  them :  '  Come  on,  or  we  shall  lose 
one  another ! ' 

As  they  drew  near,  Pierre  heard  the  girl  exclaim  :  '  Mamma 
is  so  very  busy ;  speak  to  her  before  we  leave.'  And  Gerard 
thereupon  replied :  '  It  is  -understood.  You  have  made  me  very 
happy,  mademoiselle.' 

Thus  the  husband  had  been  secured,  the  marriage  decided 
upon  during  this  charming  promenade  among  the  sights  of 
Lourdes.  Eaymonde  had  completed  her  conquest  and  G6rard 
had  at  last  taken  a  resolution,  realising  how  gay  and  sensible 
she  was,  as  she  walked  beside  him  leaning  on  his  arm. 

M.  de  Guersaint,  however,  had  raised  his  eyes,  and  was 
heard  inquiring:  'Are  not  those  people  up  there,  on  that 
balcony,  the  rich  folk  who  made  the  journey  in  the  same 
train  as  ourselves  ? — You  know  whom  I  mean,  that  lady  who 
is  so  very  ill,  and  whose  husband  and  sister  accompany  her  ? ' 

He  was  alluding  to  the  Dieulafays  ;  and  they  indeed  were 
the  persona  whom  he  now  saw  on  the  balcony  of  a  suite  of 
rooms  which  they  had  rented  in  a  new  house  overlooking  the 
lawns  of  the  Eosary.  They  here  occupied  a  first-floor,  fur- 
nished with  all  the  luxury  that  Lourdes  could  provide,  carpets, 
hangings,  mirrors,  and  many  other  things,  without  mentioning 
a  staff  of  servants  despatched  beforehand  from  Paris.  As  the 
weather  was  so  fine  that  afternoon,  the  large  armchair  on 
which  lay  the  poor  aihng  woman  had  been  rolled  on  to  the 
balcony.  You  could  see  her  there,  clad  in  a  lace  peignoir. 
Her  husband,  always  correctly  attired  in  a  black  frock-coat, 
stood  beside  her  on  her  right  hand,  whilst  her  sister,  in  a 
delightful  pale  mauve  gown,  sat  on  her  left,  smiling  and 
leaning  over  every  now  and  then  so  as  to  speak  to  her,  but 
apparently  receiving  no  reply. 

'  Oh  I '  declared  little  Madame  Desagneaux,  '  I  have  often 
heard  people  speak  of  Madame  Jousseur,  that  lady  in  mauve. 
She  is  the  wife  of  a  diplomatist  who  neglects  her,  it  seems,  in 
spite  of  her  'rare  beauty ;  and  last  year  there  was  a  great 
deal  of  talk  about  her  fancy  for  a  young  colonel  who  is  well 
known  in  Parisian  society.  It  is  said,  however,  in  Catholic 
salons  that  her  religious  principles  enabled  her  to  conquer  it.' 

They  aU  five  remained  there,  looking  up  at  the  balcony .- 
'  To  think,'  resumed  Madame  Desagneaux,  '  that  her  sister, 
poor  woman,  was  once  her  living  portrait.  And,  indeed, 
there  was  an  expression  of  greater  kindliness  and  more  gentle 
gaiety  on  Madame  Dieulafay's  face.    And  now  you  see  her — 

230  tOURDES 

no  different  from  a  dead  woman  except  that  she  is  above 
instead  of  under  ground — with  her  flesh  wasted  away,  reduced 
to  a  livid  boneless  thing  which  they  scarcely  dare  to  move. 
Ah  !  the  unhappy  woman ! ' 

Baymonde  thereupon  assured  the  others  that  Madame 
Dieulaf ay,  who  had  been  married  scarcely  two  years  previously, 
had  brought  all  the  jewellery  given  her  on  the  occasion  of  her 
wedding  to  offer  it  as  a  gift  to  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes  ;  and 
Gerard  confirmed  this  assertion,  saying  that  the  jewellery 
had  been  handed  over  to  the  treasurer  of  the  BasUica  that 
very  morning  with  a  golden  lantern  studded  with  gems  and  a 
large  sum  of  money  destined  for  the  rehef  of  the  poor.  How- 
ever, the  Blessed  Virgin  could  not  have  been  touched  as  yet, 
for  the  sufferer's  condition  seemed,  if  anything,  to  be  worse. 

From  that  moment  Pierre  no  longer  beheld  aught  save 
that  young  woman  on  that  handsome  balcony,  that  woeful 
wealthy  creature  lying  there  high  above  the  merrymaking 
throng,  the  Lourdes  mob  which  was  feasting  and  laughing  in 
the  Sunday  sunshine.  The  two  dear  ones  who  were  so 
tenderly  watching  over  her — ^her  sister  who  had  forsaken  her 
society  triumphs,  her  husband  who  had  forgotten  his  financial 
business,  his  millions  dispersed  throughout  the  world — ^in- 
creased, by  their  irreproachable  demeanour,  the  woefulness  of 
the  group  which  they  thus  formed  on  high,  above  all  other 
heads,  and  face  to  face  with  the  lovely  valley.  For  Pierre 
they  alone  remained ;  and  they  were  exceedingly  wealthy  and 
exceedingly  wretched. 

However,  lingering  in  this  wise  on  the  footway  with 
their  eyes  upturned,  the  five  promenaders  narrowly  escaped 
being  knocked  down  and  run  over,  for  at  every  moment  fresh 
vehicles  were  coming  up,  for  the  most  part  landaus  drawn  by 
four  horses,  which  were  driven  at  a  fast  trot,  and  whose  bells 
jingled  merrily.  The  occupants  of  these  carriages  were 
tourists,  visitors  to  the  waters  of  Pan,  Barnes  and  Cauterets, 
whom  curiosity  had  attracted  to  Lourdes,  and  who  were  de- 
lighted with  the  fine  weather  and  quite  inspirited  by  their 
rapid  drive  across  the  mountains.  They  would  remain  at 
Lourdes  only  a  few  hours  ;  after  hastening  to  the  Grotto  and 
the  Basilica  in  seaside  costumes,  they  would  start  off  again, 
laughing,  and  well  pleased  at  having  seen  it  all.  In  this  wisa 
families  in  light  attire,  bands  of  young  women  with  bright 
parasols,  darted  hither  and  thither  among  the  grey,  neutral- 
tinted  crowd  of  pDgrims,  imparting  to  it,  in  a  yet  more  pro- 


nounced  manner,  the  aspect  of  a  fair-day  mob,  amidst  which 
folks  of  good  society  deign  to  come  and  amuse  themselves. 

All  at  once  Madame  Ddsagneaux  raised  a  cry:  'What, 
is  it  you,  Berthe  ? '  And  thereupon  she  embraced  a  tall, 
charming  brunette  who  had  just  ahghted  from  a  landau  with 
three  other  young  women,  the  whole  party  smiling  and  ani- 
mated. Everyone  began  talking  at  once  and  all  sorts  of 
merry  exclamations  rang  out,  in  the  delight  they  felt  at 
meeting  in  this  fashion.  '  Oh !  we  are  at  Cauterets,  my 
dear,'  said  the  tall  brunette.  '  And  as  everybody  comes  here, 
we  decided  to  come  all  four  together.  And  your  husband,  is 
he  here  with  you  ? ' 

Madame  D6sagneaux  began  protesting :  '  Of  course  not,' 
said  she.  '  He  is  at  Trouville,  as  you  ought  to  know.  I  shall 
start  to  join  him  on  Thursday.' 

*  Yes,  yes,  of  course ! '  resumed  the  tall  brunette,  who, 
like  her  friend,  seemed  to  be  an  amiable,  giddy  creature, '  I  was 
forgetting ;  you  are  here  with  the  pilgrimage.' 

Then  Madame  Ddsagneaux  ofered  to  guide  her  friends, 
promising  to  show  them  everything  of  interest  in  less  than  a 
couple  of  hours ;  and  turning  to  Eaymonde,  who  stood  by, 
smiling,  she  added :  '  Come  with  us,  my  dear  ;  your  mother 
won't  be  anxious.' 

The  ladies  and  Pierre  and  M.  de  Guersaint  thereupon  ex- 
changed bows :  and  Gerard  also  took  leave,  tenderly  pressing 
Eaymonde's  hand,  with  his  eyes  fixed  on  hers,  as  though  to 
pledge  himself  definitively.  The  women  swiftly  departed, 
directing  their  steps  towards  the  Grotto,  and  when  Gerard 
also  had  gone  off,  returning  to  his  duties,  M.  de  Guersaint 
said  to  Pierre :  '  And  the  hairdresser  on  the  Place  du  Marca- 
daJ,  I  really  must  go  and  see  him.  You  wiU  come  with  me, 
won't  you  ? ' 

'  Of  course  I  will  go  wherever  you  like.  I  am  quite  at  your 
disposal  as  Marie  does  not  need  us.' 

Following  the  pathways  between  the  large  lawns  which 
stretch  out  in  front  of  the  Eosary,  they  reached  the  new 
bridge,  where  they  had  another  encounter,  this  time  with 
Abb?  Des  Hermoises,  who  was  acting  as  guide  to  two  young 
married  ladies  who  had  arrived  that  morning  &om  Tarbes. 
Walking  between  them  with  the  gallant  air  of  a  society  priest, 
he  was  showing  them  Lourdes  and  explaining  it  to  them, 
keeping  them  well  away,  however,  from  its  more  repugnant 
features,  its  poor  and  its  ailing  folk,  its  odour  of  low  misery, 


which,  it  must  be  admitted;  had  well-nigh  disappeared  that 
fine,  sunshiny  day.  _  At  the  first  word  which  M.  de  Guersaint 
addressed  to  him  with  respect  to  the  hiring  of  a  vehicle  for  the 
trip  to  Gavamie,  the  Abb6  was  seized  with  a  dread  lest  he 
should  be  obliged  to  leave  his  pretty  lady- visitors  :  'As  you 
please,  my  dear  sir,'  he  repUed.  '  Kindly  attend  to  the  matter, 
and—you  are  quite  right,  make  the  cheapest  arrangements 
possible,  for  I  shall  have  two  ecclesiastics  of  small  means  with 
me.  There  will  be  four  of  us.  Let  me  know  at  the  hotel  this 
evening  at  what  hour  we  shall  start.' 

Thereupon  he  again  joined  Ms  lady-friends,  and  led  them 
towards  the  Grotto,  following  the  shady  path  which  skirts  the 
Gave,  a  cool,  sequestered  path  well  suited  for  lovers'  walks. 

Feeling  somewhat  tired,  Pierre  had  remained  apart  from 
the  others,  leaning  against  the  parapet  of  the  new  bridge. 
And  now  for  the  first  time  he  was  struck  by  the  prodigious 
number  of  priests  among  the  crowd.  He  saw  all  varieties  of 
them  swarming  across  the  bridge  :  priests  of  correct  mien  who 
had  come  with  the  pilgrimage  and  who  could  be  recognised  by 
their  air  of  assurance  and  their  clean  cassocks ;  poor  village 
priests  who  were  far  more  timid  and  badly  clothed,  and  who, 
after  making  sacrifices  in  order  that  they  might  indulge  in  the 
journey,  would  return  home  quite  scared ;  and,  finally,  there 
was  the  whole  cloud  of  unattached  ecclesiastics  who  had  come 
nobody  knew  whence,  and  who  enjoyed  such  absolute  liberty 
that  it  was  di£5cult  to  be  sure  whether  they  had  even  said 
their  mass  that  morning.  They  doubtless  found  this  liberty 
very  agreeable ;  and  thus  the  greater  number  of  them,  like 
Abb6  Des  Hermoises,  had  simply  come  on  a  holiday  excur- 
sion, free  from  all  duties,  and  happy  at  being  able  to  Uve  Uke 
ordinary  men,  lost,  unnoticed  as  they  were  in  the  multitude 
around  them.  And  from  the  young,  carefully  groomed  and 
perfumed  priest,  to  the  old  one  in  a  dirty  cassock  and  shoes 
down  at  heel,  the  entire  species  had  its  representatives  in  the 
throng — there  were  corpulent  ones,  others  but  moderately  fat, 
thin  ones,  tall  ones  and  short  ones,  some  whom  faith  had 
brought  and  whom  ardour  was  consuming,  some  also  who  simply 
pUed  their  calling  like  worthy  men,  and  some,  moreover,  who 
were  fond  of  intriguing,  and  who  were  only  present  in  order 
that  they  might  help  the  good  cause.  However,  Pierre  was 
quite  surprised  to  see  such  a  stream  of  priests  pass  before 
him,  each  with  his  especial  passion,  and  one  and  all  hurrying 
to  the  Grotto  as  one  hurries  to  a  duty,  a  belief,  a  pleasure,  or 

THE  *  ORDINARY'  233 

a  task.  He  noticed  one  among  the  number,  a  very  short, 
shm,  dark  man  with  a  pronounced  Italian  accent,  whose 
glittering  eyes  seemed  to  be  taking  a  plan  of  Lourdes,  who 
looked,  indeed,  like  one  of  those  spies  who  come  and  peer 
around  with  a  view  to  conquest ;  and  then  he  observed  another 
one,  an  enormous  fellow  with  a  paternal  air,  who  was  breath- 
ing hard  through  iaordinate  eating,  and  who  paused  in  front 
of  a  poor  sick  woman,  and  ended  by  slipping  a  five-franc  piece 
into  her  hand. 

Just  then,  however,  M.  de  Guersaint  returned :  '  We  jnerely 
have  to  go  down  the  boulevard  and  the  Eue  Basse,'  said  he. 

Pierre  followed  him  without  answering.  He  had  just  felt 
his  cassock  on  his  shoulders  for  the  first  time  that  afternoon, 
for  never  had  it  seemed  so  Hght  to  him  as  whilst  he  was 
walking  about  amidst  the  scramble  of  the  pilgrimage.  The 
young  fellow  was  now  living  in  a  state  of  mingled  unconscious- 
ness and  dizziness,  ever  hoping  that  faith  would  fall  upon 
him  like  a  Ughtning  flash,  in  spite  of  all  the  vague  uneasiness 
which  was  growing  within  him,  at  sight  of  the  things  which 
he  beheld.  However,  the  spectacle  of  that  ever-swelling 
stream  of  priests  no  longer  wounded  his  heart ;  fraternal  feel- 
ings towards  these  unknown  colleagues  had  returned  to  him ; 
how  many  of  them  there  must  be  who  believed  no  more  than 
he  did  himself,  and  yet,  like  himself,  honestly  fulfilled  their 
mission  as  guides  and  consolers  I 

'This  boulevard  is  a  new  one,  you  know,'  said  M.  de 
Guersaint,  aU  at  once  raising  his  voice.  'The  number  of 
houses  built  during  the  last  twenty  years  is  almost  beyond 
beHef.    There  is  quite  a  new  town  here.' 

The  Lapaca  flowed  along  behind  the  buildings  on  their 
right,  and  their  curiosity  inducing  them  to  turn  into  a  narrow 
lane,  they  came  upon  some  strange  old  structures  on  the 
margin  of  the  narrow  stream.  Several  ancient  mills  here 
displayed  their  wheels ;  among  them  one  which  Monseigneur 
Laurence  had  given  to  Bemadette's  parents  after  the  appari- 
tions. Tourists,  moreover,  were  here  shown  the  pretended 
abode  of  Bernadette,  a  hovel  whither  the  Soubirous  family 
had  removed  on  leaving  the  Eue  des  Petits  Fossds,  and  in 
which  the  young  girl,  as  she  was  already  boarding  with  the 
Sisters  of  Nevers,  can  have  but  seldom  slept.  At  last,  by 
way  of  the  Eue  Basse,  Pierre  and  his  companion  reached  the 
Place  du  Marcadal. 

This  was  a  long,  triangular,  open  space,  the  most  animated 


and  luxurious  of  the  squares  of  the  old  town,  the  one  where 
the  caf^s,  the  chemists',  all  the  finest  shops  were  situated. 
And,  among  the  latter,  one  showed  conspicuously,  coloured  as 
it  was  a  lively  green,  adorned  with  lofty  mirrors,  and  sur- 
mounted by  a  broad  board  bearing  in  gilt  letters  the  inscrip- 
tion :  '  Cazaban,  Hairdresser.' 

M.  de  Guersaint  and  Pierre  went  in,  but  there  was  nobody 
in  the  salon  and  they  had  to  wait.  A  terrible  clatter  of  forks 
resounded  ■  from  the  adjoining  room,  an  ordinary  dining-room 
transformed  into  a  tahlt  d'hdte,  in  which  some  "twenty  people 
were  having  d&jeuner  although  it  was  already  two  o'clock. 
The  afternoon  was  progressing,  and  yet  people  were  still  eat- 
ing from  one  to  the  other  end  of  Lourdes.  Like  every  other 
householder  in  the  town,  whatever  his  religious  convictions 
might  be,  Cazaban,  in  the  pilgrimage  season,  let  his  bedrooms, 
surrendered  his  dining-room,  and  sought  refuge  in  his  cellar, 
where,  heaped  up  with  his  family,  he  ate  and  slept,  although 
this  unventilated  hole  was  no  more  than  three  yards  square. 
However,  the  passion  for  trading  and  money-making  carried 
all  before  it ;  at  pilgrimage  time  the  whole  population  dis- 
appeared like  that  of  a  conquered  city,  surrendering  even  the 
beds  of  its  women  and  its  children  to  the  pilgrims,  seating 
them  at  its  tables,  and  supplying  them  with  food. 

'Is  there  nobody  here?'  called  M.  de  Guersaint  after 
waiting  a  moment. 

At  last  a  little  man  made  his  appearance,  Cazaban 
himself,  a  type  of  the  knotty  but  active  Pyrenean,  with  a 
long  face,  prominent  cheek  bones,  and  a  sunburnt  com- 
plexion spotted  here  and  there  with  red.  His  big  gUtter- 
ing  eyes  never  remamed  stiU;  and  the  whole  of  his  spare 
little  figure  quivered  with  incessant  exuberance  of  speech  and 

'  For  you,  monsieur — a  shave,  eh  ? '  said  he.  '  I  must  beg 
your  pardon  for  keeping  you  waiting ;  but  my  assistant  has 
gone  out,  and  I  was  in  there  with  my  boarders.  If  you  will 
kindly  sit  down,  I  will  attend  to  you  at  once.' 

Thereupon,  deigning  to  operate  in  person,  Cazaban  began 
to  stir  up  the  lather  and  strop  the  razor.  He  bad  glanced 
rather  nervously,  however,  at  the  cassock  worn  by  Pierre, 
who  without  a  word  had  seated  himself  in  a  comer  and  taken 
up  a  newspaper  in  the  perusal  of  which  he  appeared  to  be  ab- 

A  short  interval  of  silence  followed ;  but  it  was  fraught 


with  Buffering  for  Oazaban,  and  wlulst  lathering  his  cus- 
tomer's chin  he  began  to  chatter :  '  My  boarders  Ungered  this 
morning  such  a  long  time  at  the  Grotto,  monsieur,  that  they 
have  scarcely  sat  down  to  d&jeuner.  You  can  hear  them,  eh  ? 
I  was  staying  -with  them  out  of  politeness.  However,  I  owe 
myself  to  my  customers  as  well,  do  I  not  ?  One  must  try  to 
please  everyjbody.' 

M,  de  Gnersaint,  who  also  was  fond  of  a  chat,  thereupon 
began  to  question  him :  •  You  lodge  some  of  the  pilgrims,  I 
suppose  ? ' 

'  Oh !  we  aU  lodge  some  of  them,  monsieur ;  it  is  necessary 
for  the  town,'  replied  the  barber. 

'  And  you  accompany  them  to  the  Grotto  ? ' 

At  this,  however,  Oazaban  revolted,  and  holding  up  his 
razor,  he  answered  with  an  air  of  dignity  :  '  Never,  monsieur, 
never !  For  five  years  past  I  have  not  been  in  that  new  town 
which  they  are  bmlding.' 

He  was  still  seeking  to  restrain  himself,  and  again  glanced 
at  Pierre,  whose  face  was  hidden  by  the  newspaper.  The 
sight  of  the  red  cross  pinned  on  M.  de  Guersaint's  jacket  was 
also  calculated  to  render  him  prudent ;  nevertheless  his  tongue 
won  the  victory.  '  Well,  monsieur,  opinions  are  free,  are  they 
not  ? '  said  he.  •  I  respect  yours,  but  for  my  part  I  don't  be- 
lieve in  all  that  phantasmagoria !  Oh  !  I've  never  concealed 
it !  I  was  already  a  republican  and  a  freethinker  in  the  days 
of  the  Empire.  There  were  barely  four  men  of  those  views  in 
the  whole  town  at  that  time.    Oh !  I'm  proud  of  it.' 

He  had  begun  to  shave  M.  de  Guersaint's  left  cheek  and 
was  quite  triumphant.  From  that  moment  a  stream  of  words 
poured  forth  from  his  mouth,  a  stream  which  seemed  to  be 
inexhaustible.  To  begin  with,  he  brought  the  same  charges 
as  Majesty  against  the  Fathers  of  the  Grotto.  He  reproaohed 
them  for  their  dealings  in  tapers,  chaplets,  prints,  and  cruci- 
fixes, for  the  disloyal  manner  in  which  they  competed  with 
those  who  sold  those  articles  as  well  as  with  the  hotel  and 
lodging-house  keepers.  And  he  was  also  wrathful  with  the 
Blue  Sisters  of  the  Immaculate  Conception,  for  had  they  not 
robbed  him  of  two  tenants,  two  old  ladies,  who  spent  three 
weeks  at  Lourdes  each  year?  Moreover  you  could  divine 
within  him  all  the  slowly  accumulated,  overflowing  spite  with 
which  the  old  town  regarded  the  new  town — that  town  which 
had  sprung  up  so  quickly  on  the  other  side  of  the  castle,  that 
rich  city  with  houses  as  big  as  palaces  whither  flowed  all  the 


life,  all  tte  luxury,  all  the  money  of  Lourdes,  so  that  it  wag 
incessantly  growing  larger  and  wealthier,  whilst  its  elder 
sister,  the  poor,  antique  town  of  the  mountains,  with  its  nar- 
row, grass-grown,  deserted  streets,  seemed  near  the  point  of 
death.  Nevertheless  the  struggle  still  continued;  the  old 
town  seemed  determined  not  to  die,  and,  by  lodging  pilgrims 
and  opening  shops  on  her  side,  endeavoured  to  compel  her 
ungrateful  junior  to  grant  her  a  share  of  the  spoils.  But 
custom  only  flowed  to  the  shops  which  were  near  the  Grotto, 
and  only  the  poorer  pilgrims  were  willing  to  lodge  so  far 
away  ;  so  that  the  unequal  conditions  of  the  struggle  inten- 
sified the  rupture  and  turned  the  high  town  and  the  low  town 
into  two  irreconcilable  enemies,  who  preyed  upon  one  another 
amidst  continual  intrigues. 

'  Ah,  no  I  They  certainly  won't  see  me  at  their  Grotto," 
resumed  Cazaban  with  his  rageful  air.  '  What  an  abusive  use 
they  make  of  that  Grotto  of  theirs  !  They  serve  it  up  in  every 
fashion  !  To  think  of  such  idolatry,  such  gross  superstition 
in  the  nineteenth  century  1  Just  ask  them  if  they  have  cured 
a  single  sufferer  belonging  to  the  town  during  the  last  twenty 
years  I  Yet  there  are  plenty  of  infirm  people  crawling  about 
our  streets.  It  was  our  folk  that  benefited  by  the  first 
miracles  ;  but  it  would  seem  that  the  miraculous  water  has 
long  lost  aU  its  power,  so  far  as  we  are  concerned.  We 
are  too  near  it ;  people  have  to  come  from  a  long  distance  if 
they  want  it  to  act  on  them.  It's  really  all  too  stupid; 
why,  I  wouldn't  go  there  even  if  I  were  offered  a  hundred 
francs ! ' 

Pierre's  immobility  was  doubtless  irritating  the  barber. 
He  had  now  begun  to  shave  M.  de  G«ersaint's  right  cheek  ; 
and  was  inveighing  against  the  Fathers  of  the  Immaculate 
Conception,  whose  greed  for  gain  was  the  one  cause  of  all  the 
misunderstanding.  These  Fathers  who  were  at  home  there, 
since  they  had  purchased  from  the  MunioipaUty  the  land  on 
which  they  desired  to  build,  did  not  even  carry  out. the  stipu- 
lations of  the  contract  they  had  signed,  for  there  were  clauses 
in  it  forbidding  all  trading,  such  as  the  sale  of  the  water  and 
of  religious  articles.  Innumerable  actions  might  have  been 
brought  against  them.  But  they  snapped  their  fingers,  and 
felt  themselves  so  powerful  that  they  no  longer  allowed  a 
single  offering  to  go  to  the  parish,  but  arranged  matters  so 
that  the  whole  harvest  of  money  should  be  garnered  by  the 
Grotto  and  the  Basilica. 


And,  all  at  onee,  Cazaban  candidly  exclaimed :  '  If  they 
were  oiily  reasonable,  if  they  would  only  share  with  us! ' 
Then,  when  M.  de  Guersaint  had  washed  hjs  face,  and  re- 
seated himself,  the  hairdresser  resumed :  '  And  if  I  were  to 
tell  you,  monsieur,  what  they  have  done  with  our  poor  town  ! 
Forty  years  ago  all  the  young  girls  here  conducted  themselves 
properly,  I  assure  you.  I  remember  that  in  my  young  days 
when  a  young  man  was  wicked  he  generally  had  to  go 
elsewhere.  But  times  have  changed,  our  manners  are  no 
longer  the  same.  Nowadays  nearly  all  the  girls  content 
themselves  with  selling  candles  and  nosegays ;  and  you 
must  have  seen  them  catching  hold  of  the  passers-by  and 
thrusting  their  goods  into  their  hands !  It  is  really  shameful 
to  see  so  many  bold  girls  about !  They  make  a  lot 
of  money,  acquire  lazy  habits,  and,  iQstead  of  working 
during  the  winter,  simply  wait  for  the  return  of  the  pilgrim- 
age season.  And  I  assure  you  that  the  young  men  don't 
need  to  go  elsewhere  nowadays.  No,  indeed !  And  add  to 
all  this  the  suspicious  floating  element  which  swells  the 
population  as  soon  as  the  first  fine  weather  sets  in — the 
coachmen,  the  hawkers,  the  cantine  keepers,  all  the  low- 
class  wandering  folk  reeking  with  grossness  and  vice — and 
you  can  form  an  idea  of  the  honest  new  town  which  they 
have  given  us  with  the  crowds  that  come  to  their  Grotto  and 
their  Basilica ! ' 

Greatly  struck  by  these  remarks,  Pierre  had  let  his  news- 
paper fall  and  begun  to  listen.  It  was  now,  for  the  first  time, 
that  he  fully  realised  the  difference  between  the  two  Lourdes 
— :old  Lourdes  so  honest  and  so  pious  in  its  tranquil  solitude, 
and  new  Lourdes,  corrupted,  demoralised  by  the  circulation  of 
so  much  money,  by  such  a  great  enforced  increase  of  wealth, 
by  the  ever-growing  torrent  of  strangers  sweeping  through  it, 
by  the  fatal  rotting  influence  of  the  conflux  of  thousands  of 
people,  the  contagion  of  evil  examples.  And  what  a  terrible 
result  it  seemed  when  one  thought  of  Bernadette,  the  pure 
candid  girl  kneeling  before  the  wild  primitive  grotto,  when 
one  thought  of  all  the  naive  faith,  all  the  fervent  purity  of 
those  who  had  first  begun  the  work  t  Had  they  desired  that 
the  whole  countryside  should  be  poisoned  in  this  wise  by 
lucre  and  human  filth  ?  Yet  it  had  sufficed  that  the  nations 
should  flock  there  for  a  pestilence  to  break  out. 

Seeing  that  Pierre  was  listening,  Cazaban  made  s, 
final  threatening  gesture  as  though  to  sweep  away  all  this 


piosoaous  superstition.  Then,  relapsing  into  silence;  ha 
finished  cutting  M.  de  Guersaint's  hair. 

'  There  you  are,  monsieur  ! ' 

The  architect  rose,  and  it  was  only  now  that  he  began  to 
Bpeak  of  the  conveyance  which  he  wished  to  hire.  At  first 
the  hairdresser  declined  to  enter  into  the  matter,  pretending 
that  theymust  apply  to  his  brother  at  the  Champ  Commun ;  but 
at  last  he  consented  to  take  the  order.  A  pair-horse  landau 
for  Gavarnie  was  priced  at  fifty  francs.  However,  he  was  so 
pleased  at  having  talked  so  much,  and  so  flattered  at  hearing 
himself  called  an  honest  man,  that  he  eventually  agreed  to 
charge  only  forty  francs.  There  were  four  persons  in  the 
party,  so  this  would  make  ten  francs  apiece.  And  it  was 
agreed  that  they  should  start  off  at  about  two  in  the  morning, 
so  that  they  might  get  back  at  Lourdes  at  a  tolerably  early 
hour  on  the  Monday  evening. 

'  The  landau  will  be  outside  the  Hotel  of  the  Apparitions 
at  the  appointed  time,'  repeated  Cazaban  in  his  emphatic 
way.    '  You  may  rely  on  me,  monsieur.' 

Then  he  began  to  listen.  The  clatter  of  crockery  did  not 
cease  resounding  in  the  adjoining  room.  People  were  still 
eating  there  with  that  impulsive  voracity  which  had  spread 
from  one  to  the  other  end  of  Lourdes.  And  all  at  once  a 
voice  was  heard  calling  for  more  bread. 

'Excuse  me,'  hastily  resumed  Cazaban,  'my  boarders 
want  me.'  And  thereupon  he  rushed  away,  his  hands  still 
greasy  through  fingering  the  comb. 

The  door  remained  open  for  a  second,  and  on  the  walls  of 
the  dining-room  Pierre  espied  various  religious  prints,  and 
notably  a  view  of  the  Grotto,  which  surprised  him ;  in  all 
probability,  however,  the  hairdresser  only  hung  these  en- 
gravings there  during  the  pilgrimage  season  by  way  of  pleasing 
his  boarders. 

It  was  now  nearly  three  o'clock.  When  the  young  priest 
and  M.  de  Guersaint  got  outside  they  were  astonished  at  the 
loud  pealing  of  bells  which  was  flying  through  the  air.  The 
parish  church  had  responded  to  the  first  stroke  of  vespers 
chiniing  at  the  BasUioa  ;  and  now  all  the  convents,  one  after 
another,  were  contributing  to  the  swelling  peals.  The 
crystalline  notes  of  the  bell  of  the  Carmelites  mingled  with 
the  grave  notes  of  the  bell  of  the  Immaculate  Conception  ; 
and  all  the  joyous  bells  of  the  Sisters  of  Nevers  and  the 
Dominicans  were   jingling   together.     In  this  wise,  from 


morning  till  ovening  on  fine  days  of  festivity,  the  chimes 
winged  their  flight  ahove  the  house-roofs  of  Lourdes.  And 
nothing  could  have  been  gayer  than  that  sonorous  melody 
resounding  in  the  broad  blue  heavens  above  the  gluttonous 
town,  which  had  at  last  lunched,  and  was  now  comfortably 
digesting  as  it  strolled  about  in  the  sunlight. 



As  soon  as  night  had  fallen  Marie,  still  lying  on  her  bed  at 
the  Hospital  of  Our  Lady  of  Dolours,  became  extremely  im- 
patient, for  she  had  learnt  through  Madame  de  JonquiSre 
that  Baron  Suite  had  obtained  ftom  Father  Fourcade  the 
necessary  permission  for  her  to  spend  the  night  in  front  of  the 
Grotto.  Thus  she  kept  on  questioning  Sister  Hyacinthe, 
asking  her :  '  Pray,  Sister,  is  it  not  yet  nine  o'clock  ?  ' 

'  No,  my  ohUd,  it  is  scarcely  half-past  eight,'  was  the 
reply.  '  Here  is  a  nice  woollen  shawl  for  you  to  wrap  round 
you  at  daybreak,  for  the  Gave  is  close  by,  and  the  mornings 
are  very  fresh,  you  know,  in  these  moimtainous  parts.' 

'  Oh  !  but  the  nights  are  so  lovely.  Sister,  and  besides,  I 
sleep  so  little  here  ! '  replied  Marie  ;  '  I  cannot  be  worse  off 
out  of  doors.  Mon  Dieu,  hoASf  happy  I  am ;  how  delightful  it 
will  be  to  spend  the  whole  night  with  the  Blessed  Virgin.' 

The  entire  ward  was  jealous  of  her ;  for  to  remain  in 
prayer  before  the  Grotto  all  night  long  was  the  most  ineffable 
of  joys,  the  supreme  beatitude.  It  was  said  that  in  the 
deep  peacefulness  of  night  the  chosen  ones  undoubtedly  be- 
held the  Virgin,  but  powerful  protection  was  needed  to  obtain 
such  a  favour  as  had  been  granted  to  Marie ;  for  nowadays 
the  reverend  Fathers  scarcely  liked  to  grant  it,  as  several 
sufferers  had  died  during  the  long  vigil,  falling  asleep,  as  it 
were,  in  the  midst  of  their  ecstasy. 

'  You  wiU  take  the  Sacrament  at  the  Grotto  to-morrow 
morning,  before  you  are  brought  back  here,  won't  you,  my 
child  ?  '  resumed  Sister  Hyacinthe. 

However,  nine  o'clock  at  last  struck,  and,  Pierre  not 
arriving,  the  girl  wondered  whether  he,  usually  so  punc- 
tual, could  have  forgotten  her  ?  The  others  were  now  talk- 
ing to  her  of  the  night  procession,  which  she  would  see  from 

240  lOURDES 

beginning  to  end  if  she  only  started  at  once.  The  ceremonies 
concluded  with  a  procession  every  night,  but  the  Sunday  one 
was  always  the  finest,  and  that  evening,  it  was  said,  would 
be  remarkably  splendid,  such,  indeed,  .as  was  seldom  seen. 
Nearly  thirty  thousand  pilgrims  would  take  part  in  it,  each 
carrying  a  lighted  taper :  the  nocturnal  marvels  of  the  sky 
would  be  revealed ;  the  stars  would  descend  upon  earth.  At 
this  thought  the  sufferers  began  to  bewail  their  fate ;  what  a 
wretched  lot  was  theirs,  to  be  tied  to  their  beds,  unable  to  sea 
any  of  those  wonders. 

At  last  Madame  de  Jonquifere  approached  Marie's  bed ; 
'  My  dear  girl,'  said  she, '  here,is  your  father  with  Monsieur 

Radiant  with  deHght,  the  girl  at  once  forgot  her  weary 
waiting.  'Oh!  pray  let  us  make  haste,  Pierre,'  she  ex- 
claimed ;  '  pray  let  us  make  haste ! ' 

They  carried  her  down  the  stairs,  and  the  young  priest 
harnessed  himself  to  the  little  car.,  which  gently  rolled  along, 
under  the  star-studded  heavens,  whilst  M.  de  Guersaint 
walked  beside  it.  The  night  was  moonless,  but  extremely 
beautiful;  the  vault  above  looked  like  deep  blue  velvet, 
spangled  with  diamonds,  and  the  atmosphere  was  exquisitely 
mild  and  pure,  fragrant  with  the  perfumes  from  the  moun- 
tains. Many  pilgrims  were  hurrying  along  the  street,  all 
bending  their  steps  towards  the  Grotto,  but  they  formed  a 
discreet,  pensive  crowd,  with  naught  of  the  fair-field,  loung- 
ing character  of  the  daytime  throng.  And,  as  soon  as  the 
Plateau  de  la  Merlasse  was  reached,  the  darkness  spread  out, 
you  entered  into  a  great  lake  of  shadows  formed  by  the 
stretching  lawns  and  lofty  trees,  and  saw  nothing  rising  on 
high  save  the  black,  tapering  spire  of  the  BasUiea. 

Pierre  grew  rather  anxious  on  finding  that  the  crowd 
became  more  and  more  compact  as  he  advanced.  Already . 
on  reaching  the  Place  du  Bosaire  it  was  difficult  to  taie 
another  forward  step.  '  There  is  no  hope  of  getting  to  the 
Grotto  yet  awhile,'  he  said.  '  The  best  course  would  be  to 
turn  into  one  of  the  pathways  behind  the  pilgrims'  shelter- 
house  and  wait  there.' 

Marie,  however,  greatly  desired  to  see  the  procession 
start.  '  Oh !  pray  try  to  go  as  far  as  the  Gave,'  said  she.  '  I 
shall  then  see  everythiiig  from  a  distance ;  I  don't  want  to  go 

M.  de  Guersaint,  who  was  equally  inquisitive,  seconded 


this  proposal.    '  Don't  be  uneasy,'  he  said  to  Pierre.    '  I  am 
here  behind,  and  ■will  take  care  to  let  nobody  jostle  her.' 

Pierre  had  to  begin  pulUng  the  little  vehicle  again.  It 
took  him  a  quarter  of  an  hour  to  pass  under  one  of  the 
arches  of  the  incUned  way  on  the  left  hand,  so  great  was  the 
crush  of  pilgrims  at  that  point.  Then,  taking  a  somewhat 
oblicLue  course,  he  ended  by  reaching  the  quay  beside  the 
Gave,  where  there  were  only  some  spectators  standing  on  the 
sidewalk,  so  that  he  was  able  to  advance  another  fifty  yards. 
At  last  he  halted,  and  backed  the  Httle  car  against  the  quay 
parapet,  in  fuU  view  of  the  Grotto.  *  Will  you  be  all  right 
here  ? '  he  asked. 

'  Oh  yes,  thank  you.  Only  you  must  sit  me  up ;  I  shall 
then  be  able  to  see  much  better.' 

M.  de  Guersaint  raised  her  into  a  sitting  posture,  and 
then  for  his  part  climbed  upon  the  stonework  running  from 
one  to  the  other  end  of  the  quay.  A  mob  of  inquisitive 
people  had  already  scaled  it  in  part,  like  sightseers  waiting  for 
a  display  of  fireworks ;  and  they  were  all  raising  themselves 
on  tiptoe,  and  craning  their  necks  to  get  a  better  view. 
Pierre  himself  at  last  grew  interested,  although  there  was,  so 
far,  little  to  see. 

Some  thirty  thousand  people  were  assembled,  and  every 
moment  there  were  fresh  arrivals.  All  carried  candles,  the 
lower  parts  of  which  were  wrapped  in  white  paper,  on  which  a 
picture  of  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes  was  printed  in  blue  ink.  How- 
ever, these  candles  were  not  yet  lighted,  and  the  only  illumi- 
nation that  you  perceived  above  the  bUlowy  sea  of  heads  was 
the  bright,  forge-hke  glow  of  the  taper-lighted  Grotto.  A  great 
buzzing  arose,  whiffs  of  human  breath  blew  hither  and  thither, 
and  these  alone  enabled  you  to  realise  that  thousands  of  ser- 
ried, stifling  creatures  were  gathered  together  in  wre-J^ack 
depths,  Uke  a  living  sea  that  was  ever  eddying  and  spreadihg..^ 
There  were  even  people  hidden  away  under  the  trees  beyond 
the  Grotto,  in  distant  recesses  of  the  darkness  of  which  one 
had  no  suspicion. 

At  last  a  few  tapers  began  to  shine  forth  here  and  there, 
like  sudden  sparks  of  Ught  spangling  the  obscurity  at  random. 
Their  number  rapidly  increased,  eyots  of  stars  were  formed, 
whilst  at  other  points  there  were  meteoric  trails,  milky  ways, 
so  to  say,  flowing  amidst  the  constellations.  The  thirty 
thousand  tapers  were  being  lighted  one  by  one,  their  beams 
gradually  increasing  in  number  till  they  obscured  the  bright 


242  ,  LOURDES 

glow  of  the  Grotto  and  spread,  from  one  to  the  other  end  o! 
the  promenade,  the  small  yeUow  flames  of  a  gigantic  brasier. 

'  Oh !  how  beautiful  it  is,  Pierre ! '  murmured  Marie ;  '  it 
is  like  the  resurrection  of  the  humble,  the  bright  awakening 
of  the  souls  of  the  poor.' 

'It  is  superb,  superb  1'  repeated  M.  de  Guersaint,  with 
impassioned  artistic  satisfaction.  'Do  you  see  those  two 
trails  of  light  yonder,  which  intersect  one  another  and  form  a 
cross  ?  * 

Pierre's  feelings,  however,  had  been  touched  by  what  Marie 
had  just  said.  He  was  reflecting  upon  her  words.  There  was 
truth  in  them.  Taken  singly,  those  slender  flames,  those 
mere  specks  of  light,  were  modest  and  unobtrusive,  like  the 
lowly ;  it  was  only  their  great  number  that  supphed  the  efful- 
gence, the  sun-Uke  resplendency.  Fresh  ones  were  continually 
appearing,  farther  and  farther  away,  like  waifs  and  strays. 
'  Ah ! '  murmured  the  young  priest, '  do  you  see  that  one  which 
has  just  begun  to  flicker,  all  by  itself,  far  away — do  you  see  it, 
Marie?  Do  you  see  how  it  .floats  and  slowly  approaches 
until  it  is  merged  in  the  great  lake  of  light  ? ' 

In  the  vicinity  of  the  Grotto  one  could  see  now  as  clearly 
as  in  the  daytime.  The  trees,  illumined  from  below,  were 
intensely  green,  like  the  painted  trees  in  stage  scenery.  Above 
the  moving  brasier  were  some  motionless  banners,  whose  em- 
broidered saints  and  silken  cords  showed  with  vivid  distinct- 
ness. And  the  great  reflection  ascended  to  the  rock,  even  to 
the  Basilica,  whose  spire  now  shone  out,  quite  white,  against 
the  black  sky  ;  whilst  the  hillsides  across  the  Gave  were  like- 
\rise  brightened,  and  displayed  the  pale  fronts  of  their  convents 
amidst  their  sombre  foliage. 

There  came  yet  another  moment  of  uncertainty.  The 
flaming  lake,  in  which  each  burning  wick  was  like  a  little 
wave,  rolled  its  starry  sparkling  as  though  it  were  about  to 
burst  from  its  bed  and  flow  away  La  a  river.  Then  the  banners 
began  to  oscillate,  and  soon  a  regular  motion  set  in. 

'  Oh  I  so  they  won't  pass  this  way  1 '  exclaimed  M.  de 
Guersaint  in  a  tone  of  disappointment. 

Pierre,  who  had  informed  hunself  on  the  matter,  thereupon 
explained  that  the  procession  would  first  of  all  ascend  the  ser- 
pentine road — constructed  at  great  cost  up  the  hillside-^and 
that  it  would  afterwards  pass  behind  the  BasiUca,  descend  by 
the  inclined  way  on  the  right  hand,  and  then  spread  out 
through  the  gardens, 


'  Look  1 '  said  he ;  '  you  can  see  the  foremost  tapera 
ascending  amidst  the  greenery.' 

Then  came  an  enchanting  spectacle.  Little  flickering 
lights  detached  themselves  from  the  great  bed  of  fire,  and 
began  gently  rising,  without  it  being  possible  for  one  to  tell  at 
that  distance  what  connected  them  with  the  earth.  They 
moved  upward,  looking  in  the  darkness  like  golden  particles 
of  the  sun.  And  soon  they  formed  an  oblique  streak,  a  streak 
which  suddenly  twisted,  then  extended  again  until  it  curved 
once  more.  At  last  the  whole  hillside  was  streaked  by  a 
flaming  zigzag,  resembling  those  lightning  flashes  which  you 
see  falling  from  black  skies  in  cheap  engravings.  But,  un- 
like the  lightning,  the  luminous  trail  did  not  fade  away ;  the 
little  lights  still  went  onward  in  the  same  slow,  gentle,  gliding 
manner.  Only  for  a  moment,  at  rare  intervals,  was  there  a 
sudden  eclipse ;  the  procession,  no  doubt,  was  then  passing 
behind  ^ome  clump  of  trees.  But,  farther  on,  the,  tapers 
beamed  forth  afresh,  rising  heavenward  by  an  intricate  path, 
which  incessantly  diverged  and  then  started  upward  again. 
At  last,  however,  the  time  came  when  the  lights  no  longer 
ascended,  for  they  had  reached  the  summit  of  the  hill  and 
begun  to  disappear  at  the  last  turn  of  the  road. 

Exclamations  were  rising  from  the  crowd.  'They  are 
passing  behind  the  Basilica,'  said  one.  '  Oh  t  it  will  take  them 
twenty  minutes  before  they  begin-  coming  down  on  the  other 
side,'  remarked  another.  '  Yes,  madame,'  said  a  third, '  there 
are  thirty  thousand  of  iihem,  and  an  hour  will  go  by  before  the 
last  of  them  leaves  the  Grotto.' 

Ever  since  the  start  a  sound  of  chanting  had  risen  above 
the  low  rumbling  of  the  crowd.  The  hymn  of  Bernadette 
v/as  being  sung,  those  sixty  couplets  between  which  the 
Angelic  Salutation,  with  its  all-besetting  rhythm,  was  ever 
returning  as  a  refrain.  When  the  sixty  couplets  were  finished 
they  were  sung  again;  and  that  lullaby  of  'Ave,  ave,  ave 
Maria ! '  came  back  incessantly,  stupefying  the  mind,  and 
gradually  transporting  those  thousands  of  beings  into  a  kind 
of  wide-awake  dream,  with  a  vision  of  Paradise  before  their 
eyes.  And,  indeed,  at  night-time  when  they  were  asleep,  their 
beds  would  rock  to  the  eternal  tune,  which  they  still  and  ever 
continued  singing. 

'  Are  we  going  to  stop  here  ? '  asked  M.  de  Guersaint,  who 
speedily  got  tired  of  remaining  in  any  one  spot,  'Wo  see 
nothing  but  the  game  thing  over  and  over  agaiu.' 



Marie,  who  had  informed  herself  by  listening  to  what  was 
said  in  the  crowd,  thereupon  exclaimed :  '  You  were  quite  right, 
Pierre ;  it  would  be  much  better  to  go  back  yonder  under 
the  trees.    I  so  much  •wish,  to  see  everything.' 

'  Yes,  certainly ;  we  will  seek  a  spot  whence  you  may  see  it 
all,'  replied  the  priest.  •  The  only  difficulty  lies  in  getting  away 
from  here.' 

Indeed  they  were  now  inclosed  within  the  mob  of  sight- 
seers ;  and,  in  order  to  secure  a  passage,  Pierre  with  stubborn 
perseverance  had  to  keep  on  begging  a  little  room  for  a  suffer- 
ing girl. 

M.  de  Gnersaint  meantime  brought  np  the  rear,  screening 
the  little  conveyance  so  that  it  might  not  be  upset  by  the 
jostling ;  whilst  Marie  turned  her  head,  still  endeavouring  to 
seethe  sheet  of  flame  spread  out  before  the  Grrotto,  that  lake 
of  little  sparkling  waves  which  never  seemed  to  diminish, 
although  the  procession  continued  to  flow  from  it  without  a 

At  last  they  all  three  found  themselves  out  of  the  crowd, 
near  one  of  the  arches,  on  a  deserted  spot  where  they  were  able 
to  breathe  for  a  moment.  They  now  heard  nothing  but  the 
distant  canticle  with  its  besetting  refrain,  and  they  only  saw 
the  reflection  of  the  tapers,  hovering  like  a  luminous  cloud  in 
the  neighbourhood  of  the  Basilica. 

'  The  best  plan  would  be  to  climb  to  the  Calvary,'  said 
M.  de  Guersaint.  '  The  servant  at  the  hotel  told  me  so 
this  morning.  From  up  there,  it  seems,  the  scene  is  fairy- 

But  they  could  not  think  of  making  the  ascent.  Pierre 
at  once  enumerated  the  difficulties.  'How  could  we  hoist 
ourselves  to  such  a  height  with  Marie's  conveyance?"  he 
asked.  '  Besides,  we  should  have  to  come  down  again,  and 
that  would  be  dangerous  work  in  the  darkness  amidst  all  the 

Marie  herself  preferred  to  remain  under  the  trees  in  the 
gardens,  where  it  was  very  mild.  So  they  started  off,  and 
reached  the  esplanade  in  front  of  the  great  crowned  statue  of 
the  Virgin.  It  was  illuminated  by  means  of  blue  and  yellow 
globes  which  encompassed  it  with  a  gaudy  splendour;  and 
despite  aU  his  piety  M.  de  Guersaint  could  not  help  finding 
these  decorations  in  execrable  taste. 

'  There  I '  exclaimed  Marie, '  a  good  place  would  be  near 
those  shrubs  yonder.' 


She  was  pointing  to  a  shrubbery  near  the  pilgrim's 
shelter-house  ;  and  the  spot  was  indeed  an  excellent  one  for 
their  purpose,  as  it  enabled  them  to  see  the  procession  descend 
by  the  gradient-way  on  the  left  hand,  and  watch  it  as  it  passed 
between  the  lawns  to  the  new  bridge  and  back  again.  Moreover, 
a  delightful  freshness  prevailed  there  by  reason  of  the  vicinity 
of  the  Gave.  There  was  nobody  there  as  yet,  and  one  could 
enjoy  deep  peaoefulness  in  the  dense  shade  which  fell  from  the 
big  plane-trees  bordering  the  path. 

Li  his  impatience  to  see  the  first  tapers  reappear  as  soon 
as  they  should  have  passed  behind  the  Basilica,  M.  de  Guer- 
saint  had  risen  on  tiptoe.  '  I  see  nothing  as  yet,'  he 
muttered, '  so  whatever  the  regulations  may  be  I  shall  sit  on 
the  grass  for  a  moment.  I've  no  strength  left  in  my  legs.' 
Then,  growing  anxious  about  his  daughter,  he  inquired : '  Shall 
I  cover  you  up  ?    It  is  very  cool  here.' 

'  Oh,  no !  I'm  not  cold,  father  ! '  answered  Marie ; '  I  feel 
so  happy.  It  is  long  since  I  breathed  such  sweet  air.  There 
must  be  some  roses  about — can't  you  smell  that  delicious 
perfume  ? '  And  turning  to  Pierre  she  asked :  '  Where  are 
the  roses,  my  friend  ?    Can  you  see  them  ? ' 

When  M.  de  Guersaint  had  seated  himself  on  the  grass 
near  the  little  vehicle,  it  occurred  to  Pierre  to  see  if  there  was 
not  some  bed  of  roses  near  at  hand.  But  it  was  in  vain  that 
he  explored  the  dark  lawns  ;  he  could  only  distinguish  sundry 
clumps  of  evergreens.  And,  as  he  passed  in  front  of  the 
pilgrim's  shelter-house  on  his  way  back,  curiosity  prompted 
him  to  enter  it. 

This  building  formed  a  long  and  lofty  hall,  lighted  by 
large  windows  upon  two  sides.  With  bare  walls  and  a  stone 
pavement,  it  contained  no  other  furniture  than  a  number  of 
benches,  which  stood  here  and  there  in  haphazard  fashion. 
There  was  neither  table  nor  shelf,  so  that  the  homeless  pil- 
grims who  had  sought  refuge  there  had  piled  up  their 
baskets,  parcels,  and  vaUses  in  the  window  embrasures. 
Moreover,  the  place  was  apparently  empty ;  the  poor  folk  that 
it  sheltered  had  no  doubt  joined  the  procession.  Nevertheless, 
although  the  door  stood  wide  open,  an  almost  unbearable 
emell  reigned  inside.  The  very  walls  seemed  impregnated 
with  an  odour  of  poverty,  and  in  spite  of  the  bright  sunshine 
which  had  prevailed  during  the  day,  the  flagstones  were  quite 
4iimp,  soiled  and  soaked  with  expectorations,  spilt  wine,  and 
grease.    This  oegs  bad  been  madg  by  thgpoprer  pilgrims,  who 


with  their  4irty  skins  and  wretched  rags  lived  in  the  hall,  eat- 
ing and  sleeping  in  heaps  on  the  benches. 

Pierre  speedily  came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  pleasant 
^mell  of  roses  must  emanate  from  some  other  spot ;  stlU,  he 
was  making  the  round  of  the  hall,  which  was  lighted  by  four 
Biuoky.'lantems,  and  which  he  bdieved  to  be  altogether  un- 
occupied, when,  against  the  left-hand  wall,  he  was  surprised 
to  espy  the  vague  figure  of  a  woman  in  black,  with  what 
seemed  to  be  a  white  parcel  lying  on  her  lap.  She  was 
all  alone  in  that  soUtude,  and  did  not  stir;  however,  her 
eyes  were  wide  open. 

He  drew  near  and  recognised  Madame  Vincent.  She 
addressed  him  in  a  deep,  broken  voice :  '  Eose  has  suffered  so 
dreadfully  to-day  1  Since  daybreak  she  has  not  ceased 
moaning.  And  so,  as  she  fell  asleep  a  couple  of  hours  ago,  I 
haven't  dared  to  stir  for  fear  lest  she  should  awake  and  suffer 

Thus  the  poor  woman  remained  motionleBS,martyr-mother 
that  she  was,  having  for  long  months  held  her  daughter  in 
her  arms  in  this  fashion,  in  the  stubborn  hope  of  curing 
her.  In  her  arms,  too,  she  had  brought  her  to  Lourdes ;  in 
her  arms  she  had  carried  her  to  the  Grotto  ;  in  her  arms  she 
had  rocked  her  to  sleep,  having  neither  a  room  of  her  own, 
nor  even  a  hospital  bed  at  her  disposal. 

•Isn't  the  poor  little  thing  any  better?'  asked  Pierre, 
whose  heart  ached  at  the  sight. 

'  No,  Monsieur  1' Abb6  ;  no,  I  think  not.' 

'  But  you  are  very  badly  off  here  on  this  bench.  You 
should  have  made  an  appUcation  to  the  pilgrimage  managers 
instead  of  remaining  like  this,  in  the  street,  asit  were.  ^  Some 
accommodation  would  have  been  found  for  your  little  girl, 
at  any  rate ;  that's  certain.' 

'  Oh  1  what  would  have  been  the  use  of  it.  Monsieur 
I'Abb^  ?  She  is  all  right  on  my  lap.  And  besides,  should  I 
have  been  allowed  to  stay  with  her?  No,  no,  I  prefer 
to  have  her  on  my  knees ;  it  seems  to  me  that  it  will 
end  by  ouriilg  her.'  Two  big  tears  rolled  down  the  poor 
woman's  motionless  cheeks,  and  in  her  stifled  voice  she 
continued :  'I  am  not  pennOess.  I  had  thirty  sous  when 
I  left  Paris,  and  I  still  have  ten  left.  All  I  need  is  a  little 
bread,  and  she,  poor  darling,  can  no  longer  drink  any  milk 
even.  I  have  Plough  to  last  me  till  we  go  back,  and  if  she 
gets  well  again,  oh  I  we  shall  be  rich,  rich,  rich !  * 


She  had  leant  forward  while  speakiiig,  and,  by  the  flicker- 
ing light  of  a  lantern  near  by,  gazed  at  Eose,  who  was  breath- 
ing faintly,  with  parted  hps.  '  You  see  how  soundly  she  is 
Bleeping,'  resumed  the  unhappy  mother.  '  Surely  the  Blessed 
Virgin  will  take  pity  on  her  and  cure  her,  won't  she.  Mon- 
sieur rAbb6?  We  only  have  one  day  left;  still,  I  don't 
despair;  and  I  shall  again  pray  all  night  long  without 
moving  from  here.  She  will  be  cured  to-morrow ;  we  must 
live  till  then.' 

Infinite  pity  was  filling  the  heart  of  Pierre,  who,  fearing 
that  he  also  might  weep,  now  went  away.  'Yes,  yes,  my 
poor  woman,  we  must  hope,  still  hope,'  said  he,  as  he  left 
her  there  among  the  scattered  benches,  in  that  deserted, 
malodorous  ha,ll,  so  motionless  in  her  painful  maternal 
passion  as  to  hold  her  own  breath,  fearful  lest  the  heaving  of 
her  bosom  should  awaken  the  poor  Uttle  sufferer.  And  in 
deepest  grief,  with  closed  hps,  she  prayed  ardently. 

On  Pierre  returning  to  Marie's  side,  the  girl  inquired 
of  him :  '  Well,  and  those  roses  ?  Are  there  any  near 

He  did  not  wish  to  sadden  her  by  telling  her  what  he  had 
seen,  so  he  simply  answered :  •  No,  I  have  searched  the  lawns ; 
there  are  none.' 

'  How  singular  1 '  she  rejoined,  in  a  thoughtful  way.  '  The 
perfume  is  both  so  sweet  and  penetrating.  You  can  smell 
it,  can't  you  ?  At  this  moment  it  is  wonderfully  strong,  as 
though  aJl  the  roses  of  paradise  were  flowering  around  us  in 
the  darkness.' 

A  low  exclamation  from  her  father  interrupted  her. 
M.  de  Guersaint  had  risen  to  his  feet  again  on  seeing  some 
specks  of  light  shine  out  above  the  gradient  ways  on  the 
left  side  of  the  BasiUca.    '  At  last !  here  they  come ! '  said  he. 

It  was  indeed  the  head  of  the  procession  again  appear- 
ing to  view ;  and  at  once  the  specks  of  hght  began  to  swarm 
and  extend  in  long,  wavering  double  files.  The  darkness 
submerged  everything  except  these  luminous  pbmts,  which 
seemed  to  be  at  a  great  elevation,  and  to  emerge,  as  it  were, 
from  the  black  depths  of  the  Unknown.  And  at  the  same 
time  the  everla.sting  canticle  was  again  heard,  but  so  lightly, 
for  the  procession  was  far  away,  that  it  seemed  as  yet  merely 
like  the  rustle  of  a  coming  storm,  stirring  the  leaves  of  the 

'Ah  I  I  said  so,'  muttered  M.  de  Guersaint  j  '  erne  ought 


to  be  at  the  Calvary  to  see  everything.'  With  the  obstinacy 
of  a  child  he  kept  on  returning  to  his  first  idea,  again  and  again 
complaining  that  they  had  chosen  '  the  worst  possible  place.' 

'  But  why  don't  you  go  up  to  the  Calvary,  papa  ? '  at  last 
said  Marie.  There  is  stUl  time.  Pierre  will  stay  here  with 
me.'  And  with  a  mournful  laugh  she  added :  '  Go ;  you 
know  very  well  that  nobody  wiU.  run  away  with  me.' 

He  at  first  refused  to  act  upon  the  suggestion,  but,  un- 
able to  resist  his  desire,  he  all  at  once  fell  in  with  it.  And  he 
had  to  hasten  his  steps,  crossing  the  lawns  at  a  run.  '  Don't 
move,'  he  called ; '  wait  for  me  under  the  trees.  I  will  tell 
you  of  aU  that  I  may  see  up  there.' 

Pierre  and  Marie  remained  alone  in  that  dim,  solitary 
nook,  whence  came  such  a  perfume  of  roses,  albeit  no  roses 
could  be  found.  And  they  did  not  speak,  but  in  silence 
watched  the  procession,  which  was  now  coining  down  from 
the  hUl  with  a  gentle,  continuous,  gliding  motion. 

A  double  file  of  quivering  stars  leapt  into  view  on  the 
left-hand  side  of  the  Basilica,  and  then  followed  the  monu- 
mental gradient  way,  whose  curve  it  gradually  described.  At 
that  distance  you  were  stiU  unable  to  see  the  pilgrims  them- 
selves, and  you  beheld  simply  those  well-disciplined  travelling 
lights  tracing  geometrical  Imes  amidst  the  darkness.  Under  the 
deep  blue  heavens,  even  the  buildings  at  first  remained  vague, 
forming  but  blacker  patches  against  the  sky.  Little  by  little, 
however,  as  the  number  of  candles  increased,  the  principal 
architectural  lines — the  tapering  spire  of  the  Basilica,  the 
Cyclopean  arches  of  the  gradient  ways,  the  heavy,  squat 
f  a9ade  of  the  Eosary — became  more  distinctly  visible.  And 
with  that  ceaseless  torrent  of  bright  sparks,  flowing  slowly 
downward  with  the  stubborn  persistence  of  a  stream  which 
has  overflowed  its  banks  and  can  be  stopped  by  nothing, 
there  came  as  it  were  an  aurora,  a  grovnng,  invading  mass  of 
Ught,  which  would  at  last  spread  its  glory  over  the  whole 

'  Look,  look,  Pierre ! '  cried  Marie,  in  an  access  of 
childish  joy.  '  There  is  no  end  to  them ;  fresh  ones  are  ever 
shining  out.' 

Indeed,  the  sudden  appearances  of  the  little  lights  continued 
with  mechanical  regularity,  as  though  some  inexhaustible 
celestial  source  were  pouring  forth  aU  those  solar  specks.  The 
head  of  the  procession  had  just  reached  the  gardens,  near  the 
oroivned  statue  of  the  Virgin,  so  that  as  yet  the  double  file  of 


flames  merely  outlined  the  curves  of  the  Eosary  and  the 
broad  inclined  way.  However,  the  approach  of  the  multitude 
was  foretokened  by  the  perturbation  of  the  atmosphere,  by  the 
gusts  of  human  breath  coming  from  afar ;  and  particularly 
did  the  voices  swell,  the  canticle  of  Bernadette  surging  with 
the  clamour  of  a  rising  tide,  through  which,  with  rhythmical 
persistence,  the  refrain  of  '  Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  ! '  rolled  ever 
in  a  louder  key. 

'  Ah,  that  refrain ! '  muttered  Pierre ;  '  it  penetrates  one's 
very  skin.  It  seems  to  me  as  though  my  whole  body  were  at 
last  singing  it.' 

Again  did  Marie  give  vent  to  that  childish  laugh  of  hers. 
'It  is  true,'  said  she;  'it  follows  me  about  everywhere.  I 
heard  it  the  other  night  whilst  I  was  asleep.  And  now  it  is 
again  taking  possession  of  me,  rocking  me,  wafting  me  above 
the  ground.'  Then  she  broke  off  to  say :  '  Here  they  come, 
just- across  the  lavra,  in  front  of  us.' 

The  procession  had  entered  one  of  the  long  straight  paths ; 
and  then,  turhing  round  the  lawn  by  way  of  the  Breton's 
Cross,  it  came  back  by  a  parallel  path.  It  took  more  than 
a  quarter  of  an  hour  to  execute  this  movement,  during  which 
the  double  file  of  tapers  resembled  two  long  parallel  streams 
of  fiame.  That  which  ever  excited  one's  admiration  was  the 
ceaseless  march  of  this  serpent  of  fire,  whose  golden  coils  crept 
so  gently  over  the  black  earth,  winding,  stretching  into  the  far 
distance,  without  the  immense  body  ever  seeming  to  end. 
There  must  have  been  some  jostling  and  scrambling  every 
now  and  then,  for  some  of  the  luminous  lines  shook  and  bent 
as  though  they  were  about  to  break ;  but  order  was  soon  re- 
established, and  then  the  slow,  regular,  gliding  movement  set 
in  afresh.  There  now  seemed  to  be  fewer  stars  in  the 
heavens ;  it  was  as  though  a  milky  way  had  fallen  from  on 
high,  rolHng  its  ghttering  dust  of  worlds,  and  transferring  the 
revolutions  of  the  planets  from  the  empyrean  to  earth.  A 
bluish  light  streamed  aU  around ;  there  was  naught  but  heaven 
left ;  the  buildings  and  trees  assumed  a  visionary  aspect  in  the 
mysterious  glow  of  those  thousands  of  tapers,  whose  number 
still -and  ever  increased. 

A  faint  sigh  of  admiration  came  from  Marie.  She  was  at 
a  loss  for  words,  and  could  only  repeat :  '  How  beautiful  it 
is  ?  Mon  Dieu  1  how  beautiful  it  is  !  Look,  Pierre,  is  it  not 
beautiful  ? ' 

However,  since  the  procession  had  been  going  bj  at  so 


ehort  a  distance  from  them  it  had  ceased  to  be  a  rhythmic 
march  of  stars  which  no  human  hand  appeared  to  guide,  for 
amidst  the  stream  of  light  they  could  distinguish  the  figures 
of  the  pilgrims  carrying  the  tapers,  and  at  times  even  recog- 
nise them  as  they  passed.  First  they  espied  La  Grivotte, 
vho,  exaggerating  her  cure,  and  repeating  that  she  had  never 
felt  in  better  health,  had  insisted  upon  taking  part  in  the 
cerranony  despite  the  lateness  of  the  hour;  and  she  still 
retained  her  excited  demeanour,  her  dancing  gait  in  the  cool 
night  air,  which  often  made  her  shiver.  Then  the  Vignerons 
a^eazed;  the  father  at  the  head  of  the  party,  raising  his 
tapcx  on  Ug^  and  followed  by  Madame  Vigneron  and  Madame 
C^iae,  who  dragged  their  weary  legs ;  whilst  little  Gustave, 
quite  worn  out,  kept  on  tapping  the  sanded  path  with  his 
GTotdi,  his  right  haitd  covered,  meantime,  with  all  the  wax 
that  bad  dripped  npon  it.  Every  sufierer  who  could  walk  was 
there,  among  others  Elise  Bonqoet,  who,  with  her  bare  red 
faee,  passed  by  like  some  apparition  £ram  among  the  damned. 
Others  -weie  laog^iing ;  SopMe  Cionteau,  thehttle  girl  who  had 
been  miraculonely  headed  the  previous  year,  was  quite  forget- 
ting hen^  piajiiig  with  hra  taper  as  though  it  were  a 
swttdi.  Meads  fallowed  heads  ^nthout  a  pause,  heads  of 
wtHnen  espedaltf,  more  oftrai  with  sordid,  common  features, 
bat  at  tanes  wearing  an  exalted  expression,  which  you  saw 
for  a  second  ere  it  wiished  amidst  the  fantastic  illumination. 
And  there  was  no  end  to  that  terrible  march  past ;  fresh  pil> 
glims  were  ever  appearing.  Among  them,  Pierre  and  Marid 
noticed  yet  another  little  black  shadowy  figure,  ghding  along 
in  a  discreet,  hmnble  way ;  it  was  Madame  Maze,  whom  they 
would  not  have  recognised  if  she  had  not  for  a  moment 
raised  her  p^  face,  dawa.  which  the  tears  were  streaming. 

'  Look,'  er^ained  Pierre ;  '  the  first  tapers  in  the  proces- 
sion are  reat^ng  the  Place  dn  Bosaire,  and  I  am  sure  that 
half  of  the  pi^rims  are  still  in  front  of  the  Grotto.' 

Marie  had  nused  her  eyes.  Up  yonder,  on  the  left-hand 
side  of  the  Bafdlica,  she  could  see  other  lights  incessantly 
appearing  with  that  mechanical  kind  of  movement  which 
seemed  as  though  it  would  never  cease.  '  Ah ! '  she  said, '  how 
many,  how  many  distressed  souls  there  are !  For  each  of 
those  little  flames  is  a  suffering  soul  seeking  deliverance,  is  it 

Pierre  had  to  lean  over  in  order  to  hear  her,  for  smce  the 
procession  had  been  streaming  by,  so  near  to  them,  they  had 


been  deafened  by  the  sound  of  the  endless  canticle,  the  hymn 
of  Bernadette.  The  voices  of  the  pilgrims  rang  out  more 
loudly  than  ever  amidst  the  increasing  vertigo ;  the  couplets 
became  j  umbled  together — each  batch  of  processionists  chanted 
a  different  one  •vrith  the  ecstatic  voices  of  beings  possessed, 
who  can  no  longer  hear  themselves.  There  was  a  huge 
indistinct  clamour,  the  distracted  clamour  of  a  multitude 
intoxicated  by  its  ardent  faith.  And  meantime  the  refrain 
of  '  Ave,  ave,  aye  Maria  1 '  was  ever  returning,  rising,  with  its 
frantic,  importunate  rhythm,  above  everything  else. 

All  at  once  Pierre  and  Marie,  to  their  great  surprise,  saw 
M.  de  Guersaint  before  them  again.  •  '  Ah  I  my  chUdren,'  he 
said, '  I  did  not  want  to  Imger  too  long  up  there,  I  cut  through 
the  procession  twice  in  order  to  get  back  to  you.  But  what  a 
eight,  what  a  sight  it  is  !  It  is  certainly  the  first  beautiful 
thing  that  I  have  seen  since  I  have  been  here  1 '  Thereupon 
he  began  to  describe  the  procession  as  he  had  beheld  it  from 
the  Calvary  height.  '  Imagine,'  •  said  he,  '  another  heaven, 
a  heaven  down  below  reflecting  that  above,  a  heaven 
entirely  filled  by  a  single  immense  constellation.  The  swarm- 
ing stars  seem  to  be  lost,  to  lie  in  dim  far-away  depths  ;  and 
the  trail  of  fire  is  in  form  Hke  a  monstrance — yes,  a  real 
monstrance,  the  base  of  which  is  outlined  by  the  inclined  ways, 
the  stem  by  the  two  parallel  paths,  and  the  Host  by  the 
round  lawn  which  crowns  them.  It  is  a  monstrance  of  burning 
gold,  shining  out  in  the  depths  of  the  darkness  with  a  perpetual 
sparkle  of  moving  stars.  Nothing  else  seems  to  exist ;  it  is 
gigantic,  paramount.  I  really  never  saw  anything  so  extra- 
ordinary befote ! ' 

He  was  waving  bis  arms,  beside  himseU,  overflowing  with 
the  emotion  of  an  artist. 

'  Father  dear,'  said  Marie,  tenderly, '  since  you  have  come 
back  you  ought  to  go  to  bed.  It  is  nearly  eleven  o'clock,  and 
you  know  that  you  have  to  start  at  two  in  the  morning.'  Then, 
to  render  him  compliant,  she  added :  '  I  am  so  pleased  that  you 
are  going  to  make  that  excursion  !  Only,  come  back  early  to- 
morrow evening,  because  you'll  see,  you'U  see — '  She  stopped 
short,  not  daring  to  express  her  conviction  that  she  would  be 

'  You  are  right ;  I  will  go  to. bed,'  repUed  M,  de  Guersaint, 
quite  calmed.  '  Since  Pierre  will  be  with  you  I  sha'n't  feel 

'  But  I  don't  wish  Pierre  to  pass  the  night  out  here.    He 


will  join  you  by-and-by  after  he  has  taken  me  to  the  Grotto.  I 
sha'n'thave  any  further  need  of  anybody ;  the  first  bearer  who 
passes  can  take  me  back  to  the  Hospital  to-morrow  morning.' 

Pierre  had  not  interrupted  her,  and  now  he  simply  said : 
'  No,  no,  Marie,  I  shall  stay.  Like  you,  I  shall  spend  the  night 
at  the  Grotto.'  —- 

She  opened  her  mouth  to  insist  andrexpress  her  displeasure. 
But  he  had  spoken  those  words  so  gently,  and  she  had  detected 
in  them  such  a  dolorous  thirst  for  happiness,  that,  stirred  to 
the  depths  of  her  soul,  she  stayed  her  tongue. 

'  Well,  well,  my  children,'  repUed  her  fcither,  '  settle  the 
matter  between  you.  I  know  that  you  are  both  very  sensible. 
And  now  good  night,  and  don't  be  at  all  uneasy  about  me.' 

He  gave  his  daughter  a  long,  loving  Mss,  pressed  the  young 
priest's  hands,  and  then  went  off,  disappearing  among  the 
serried  ranks  of  the  procession,  which  he  once  more  had  to 

Then  they  remained  alone  in  their  dark,  solitary  nook 
under  the  spreading  trees,  she  still  sitting  up  ih  her  box,  and 
he  kneeling  on  the  grass,  with  his  elbow  resting  on  one  of  the 
wheels.  And  it  was  truly  sweet  to  linger  l£.ere  while  the 
tapers  continued  marching  past,  and,  after  a  turning  movement, 
assembled  on  the  Place  da  Bosaire.  What  delighted  Pierre 
was  that  nothing  of  aU  the  daytime  junketing  remained.  It 
seemed  as  though  a  pudfying  breeze  had  come  down  from  the 
mountains,  sweeping  away  all  the  odour  of  strong  meats,  the 
greedy  Sunday  delights,  the  scorchiag,  pestilential,  fair-field 
dust  which,  at  an  earHer  hour,  had  hovered  above  the  town. 
Overhead  there  was  now  only  the  vast  sky,  studded  with  pure 
stars,  and  the  freshness  ef  &e  Gave  was  delicious,  whilst  the 
-wandering  breezes  were  laden  with  the  perfumes  of  wild 
flowers.  The  mysterious  Infinite  spread  far  around  in  the 
sovereign  peacefnlness  of  night,  and  nothing  of  materiaUty 
remained  save  those  little  candle-flames  which  the  young 
priest's  companion  had  compared  to  suffering  souls  seeking 
deliverance.  All  was  now  exquisitely  restful,  instinct  with 
unlimited  hope.  Since  Pierre  had  been  there  all  the  heart- 
rending memories  of  the  afternoon,  of  the  voracious  appetites, 
the  impudent  simony,  and  the  poisoning  of  the  old  town,  had 
graduaJly  left  him,  sdlowing  >iini  to  savour  the  divine  refresh- 
ment of  that  beautiful  night,  in  which  his  whole  being  was 
Bteeped  as  in  some  revivifymg  water. 

A  feeling  of  infinite  sweetness  had  likewise  §pm@  ov«r 


Marie,  who  murmured :  •  Ah  1  how  happy  Blanche  would  be 
to  see  all  these  marvels.' 

She  was  thinking  of  her  sister,  who  had  been  left  in  Paris 
amidst  all  the  worries  of  her  hard  profession  as  a  teacher 
forced  to  run  hither  and  thither  giving  lessons.  And  that 
simple  mention  of  her  sister,  of  whom  Marie  had  not  "spoken 
since  her  arrival  at  Lourdes,  but  whose  figure  now  unexpec- 
tedly arose  in  her  mind's  eye,  sufficed  to  evoke  a  vision  of  all 
the  past. 

Then,  without  exchanging  a  word,  Marie  and  Pierre  lived 
their  childhood's  days  afresh,  playing  together  once  more  in 
the  neighbouring  gardens  parted  by  the  quickset  hedge.  But 
separation  came  on  the  day  when  he  entered  the  seminary 
and  when  she  kissed  him  on  the  cheeks,  vowing  that  she 
would  never  forget  him.  Years  went  by,  and  they  found  them- 
selves for  ever  parted  :  he  a  priest,  she  prostrated  by  illness, 
no  longer  with  any  hope  of  ever  being  a  woman.  That  was 
their  whole  story — an  ardent  affection  of  which  they/had 
long  been  ignorant,  then  absolute  severance,  as  though  they 
were  dead,  albeit  they  lived  side  by  side.  They  again  beheld 
the  sorry  lodging  whence  they  had  started  to  come  to  Lourdes 
after  so  much  battling,  so  much  discussion — his  doubts  and 
her  passionate  faith,  which  last  had  conquered.  And  it  seemed 
to  them  truly  deUghtful  to  find  themselves  once  more  quite 
alone  together,  in  that  dark  nook  on  that  lovely  night,  when 
there  were  as  many  stars  upon  earth  as  there  were  in  heaven. 

Marie  had  hitherto  retained  the  soul  of  a  child,  a  spotless 
soul,  as  her  father  said,  good  and  pure  among  the  purest. 
Stricken  low  in  her  thirteenth  year,  she  had  grown  no  older 
in  mind.  Although  she  was  now  three-and-twenty,  she  was 
still  a  child,  a  child  of  thirteen,  who  had  retired  within  herself, 
absorbed  in  the  bitter  catastrophe  which  had  annihilated  her. 
You  could  tell  this  by  the  frigidity  of  her  glance,  by  her  absent 
expression,  by  the  haunted  air  she  ever  wore,  unable  as  she 
was  to  bestow  a  thought  on  anything  but  her  calamity.  And 
never  was  woman's  soul  more  pure  and  candid,  arrested  as  it 
had  been  in  its  development.  She  had  had  no  other  romance 
in  life  save  that  tearful  farewell  to  her  friend,  which  for  ten 
long  years  had  sufficed  to  fill  her  heart.  During  the  endless 
days  which  she  had  spent  on  her  couch  of  wretchedness,  she 
had  never  gone  beyond  this  dream — that  if  she  had  grown  up 
in  health,  he  doubtless  would  not  have  become  a  priest  in 
order  to  live  near  her.    She  never  read  any  novels.  The  pioua 


works  which  she  was  allowed  to  peruse  maintained  her  in  tho 
excitement  of  a  superhuman  love.  Even  the  rumours  of 
everyday  life  died  away  at  the  door  of  the  room  where  she 
lived  in  seclusion ;  and,  in  past  years,  when  she  had  been 
taken  from  one  to  the  other  end  of  France,  from  one  inland 
spa  to  another,  she  had  passed  through  the  crowds  like  a 
somnambulist  who  neither  sees  nor  hears  anything,  possessed, 
as  she  was,  by  the  idea  of  the  calamity  that  had  befallen  her, 
the  bond  which  made  her  a  sexless  thing.  Hence  her  purity 
and  childishness ;  hence  she  was  but  an  adorable  daughter  of 
suffering,  who,  despite  the  growth  of  her  sorry  flesh,  harboured 
nothing  in  her  heart  save  that  distant  awakening  of  passion, 
the  unconscious  love  of  her  thirteenth  year. 

Her  hand  sought  Pierre's  in  the  darkness,  and  when  she 
found  it,  coming  to  meet  her  own,  she,  for  a  long  time,  con- 
tinued pressing  it.  Ah !  how  sweet  it  was.  Never  before, 
indeed,  had  they  tasted  such  pure  and  pejfegij^ip  being 
together,  far  from  the  world,  amidst  ttfe  sovereipftyschant- 
ment  of  darkness  and  mystery.  Around  them  nothing  sub- 
sisted, save  the  revolwig  stars.  The  lulling  hymns  agre  like 
the  very  vertigo  that  bore  them  away.  And  .slj&'ifflew  right 
well  that  after  spending  a  night  of  rapture  at  the  Grotto, 
she  would,  on  the  morrow,  be  cured.  Of  this  she  was,  indeed, 
absolutely  convinced;  she  would  prevail  upon  the  Blessed 
Virgin  to  listen  to  her ;  she  would  soften  her,  as  soon  as  she 
should  be  alone,  imploring  her  face  to  face.  And  she  well 
understood  what  Pierre  had  wished  to  say  a  short  time  pre- 
viously, when  expressing  his  desire  to  spend  the  whole  night 
outside  the  Grotto,  like  herself.  Was  it  not  that  he  intended 
to  make  a  supreme  effort  to  believe,  that  he  meant  to  fall  upon 
his  knees  like  a  little  child,  and  beg  the  all-powerful  Mother 
to  restore  his  lost  faith  ?  Without  need  of  any  further  ex- 
change of  words,  their  clasped  hands  repeated  all  those  things. 
They  mutually  promised  that  they  would  pray  for  each  other, 
and  so  absorbed  in  each  other  did  they  become  that  they  forgot 
themselves,  with  such  an  ardent  desire  for  one  another's  cure 
and  happiness,  that  for  a  moment  they  attained  to  the  depths 
of  the  love  which  offers  itself  in  sacrifice.  It  was  divine  en- 

'  Ah  I '  murmured  Pierre, '  how  beautiful  ig  this  blue  night, 
this  infinite  darkness,  which  has  swept  away  all  the  hideous- 
ness  of  things  and  beings,  this  deep,  fresh  peacefulness,  ia 
wbich  I  myself  should  like  to  bury  my  doubts  1 ' 


His  voice  died  away,  and  Marie,  in  her  turn,  said  in  a  very 
low  voice :  '  And  the  roses,  the  perfume  of  the  roses  ?  Can't 
you  smell  them,  my  friend  ?  Where  can  they  be  siaoe  you 
could  not  see  them  ? ' 

'  Yes,  yes,  I  smell  them,  but  there  are  none,'  he  replied. 
'  I  should  certainly  have  seen  them,  for  I  hunted  everywhere.' 

'  How  can  you  say  that  there  are  no  roses  when  they  per- 
fume the  air  around  us,  when  we  are  steeped  in  their  aroma  ? 
Why,  there  aye  moments  when  the  scent  is  so  powerful  that  I 
almost  faint  with  delight  in  inhaling  it  1  They  must  certainly 
be  here,  iunumerable,  under  our  very  feet.' 

'  No,  no,'  said  Pierre,  *  I  swear  to  you  I  hunted  everywhere, 
and  there  are  no  roses.  They  must  be  invisible,  or  they  may 
be  the  very  grass  we  tread  and  the  spreading  trees  that  are 
around  us  ;  their  perfume  may  come  from  the  soil  itself,  from 
the  torrent  which  flows  along  close  by,  from  the  woods  and 
the  mountains  that  rise  yonder.' 

For  a  moment  they  remained  silent.  Then,  in  an  under- 
tone, she  resumed :  '  How  sweet  they  smell,  Pierre  1  And  it 
seems  to  me  that  even  our  clasped  hands  form  a  bouquet.' 

'  Yes,  they  smell  delightfully  sweet ;  but  it  is  from  you, 
Marie,  that  the  perfume  now  ascends,  as  though  the  rosea 
were  budding  from  your  hair.' 

Then  they  ceased  speaking.  The  procession  was  still 
gliding  along,  and  at  the  corner  of  the  Basilica  bright  sparks 
were  still  appearing,  flashing  suddenly  from  out  of  the  ob- 
scurity, as  though  spurting  from  some  invisible  source.  The 
vast  trail  of  Httle  flames,  marching  in  double  file,  threw  a 
riband  of  light  across  the  darkness.  But  the  great  sight  was 
now  on  the  Place  du  Eosaire,  where  the  head  of  the  procession 
still  continuing  its  measured  evolutions,  was  revolving  and 
revolving  in  a  circle  which  ever  grew  smaller,  with  a  stubborn 
whirl  which  increased  the  dizziness  of  the  weary  pilgrims  and 
the  violence  of  their  chants.  And  soon  the  circle  formed  a 
nucleus,  the  nucleus  of  a  nebula,  so  to  say,  around  which  the 
endless  riband  of  fire  began  to  coil  itself.  And  the  brasier 
grew  larger  and  larger — there  was  first  a  pool,  then  a  lake  of 
light.  The  whole  vast  Place  du  Eosaire  changed  at  last  into 
a  burning  ocean,  rolling  its  little  sparkling  wavelets  with  the 
dizzy  motion  of  a  whirlpool  that  never  rested.  A  reflection 
like  that  of  davm  whitened  the  Basilica ;  while  the  rest  of  the 
horizon  faded  into  deep  obscurity,  amidst  which  you  only  saw 
ft  few  stray  tapers  journeying  alone,  liko  glow-worms  seeking 


their  way  With  the  help  of  their  little  lights.  Howev6f,  a 
straggling  rearguard  of  the  procession  must  have  climbed  the 
Calvary  height,  for  up  there,  against  the  sky,  some  moving 
stars  could  also  be  seen.  Eventually  the  moment  came  when 
the  last  tapers  appeared  down  below,  marched  round  the 
lawns,  flowed  away,  and  were  merged  in  the  sea  of  flame. 
Thirty  thousand  tapers  were  burning  there,  stiU  and  ever 
revolving,  quickening  their  sparkles  under  the  vast  calm 
heavens  where  the  pkinets  had  grown  pale.  A  luminous  glow 
ascended  in  company  with  the  straias  of  the  canticle  which 
never  ceased.  And  the  roar  of  voices  incessantly  repeating 
the  refrain  of  '  Ave,  ave,  ave  Maria  1 '  was  like  the  very 
crackUng  of  those  hearts  of  fire  which  were  burning  away  in 
prayers  in  order  that  souls  might  be  saved. 

The  candles  had  just  been  extinguished,  one  by  one,  and 
the  night  was  falling  again,  paramount,  densely  black  and 
extremely  mild,  when  Pierre  and  Marie  perceived  that  they 
were  still  there,  hand  in  hand,  hidden  away  among  the  trees. 
In  the  dim  streets  of  Lourdes,  far  off,  there  were  now  only 
some  stray,  lost  pilgrims  inquiring  their  way,  in  order  that 
they  might  get  to  bed.  Through  the  darkness  there  swept 
a  rustUng  sound — the  rustUng  of  those  who  prowl  and  fall 
asleep  when  days  of  festivity  draw  to  a  close.  But  the  young 
priest  and  the  girl  lingered  in  their  nook  forgetfully,  never 
Btirring,  but  tasting  delicious  happiness  amidst  the  perfume  of 
the  invisible  roses. 


THE    VIGin 

When  Pierre  dragged  Marie  in  her  box  to  the  front  of  the 
Grotto,  and  placed  her  as  near  as  possible  to  the  railing,  it  was 
past  midnight,  and  about  a  hundred  persons  were  still  there, 
some  seated  on  the  benches,  but  the  greater  number  kneeling 
as  though  prostrated  in  prayer.  The  Grotto  shone  from  afar, 
with  its  multitude  of  lighted  tapers,  similar  to  the  illumination 
round  a  coffin,  though  aU  that  you  could  distinguish  was  a 
star-like  blaze,  from  the  midst  of  which,  with  visionary  white- 
ness, emerged  the  statue  of  the  Virgin  in  its  niche.  The 
banging  foliage  assumed  an  emerald  sheen,  the  hundreds  o{ 


crutches  covering  the  vault  resembled  an  inextricable  net- 
work  of  dead  wood  on  the  point  of  reflowering.  And  the 
darkness  was  rendered  more  dense  by  so  great  a  brightness, 
the  surroundings  became  lost  in  a  deep  shadow  in  which 
nothing,  neither  walls  nor  trees,  remained ;  whilst  all  alone 
ascended  the  angry  and  continuous  murmur  of  the  Gave, 
rolling  along  beneath  the  gloomy,  boundless  sky,  now  heavy 
with  a  gathering  storm. 

'  Are  you  comfortable,  Marie  ? '  gently  inquired  Pierre. 
•  Don't  you  feel  chilly  ? ' 

She  had  just  shivered.  But  it  was  only  at  a  breath  from 
the  other  world,  which  had  seemed  to  her  to  come  from  the 

'  No,  no,  I  am  so  comfortable !  Only  place  the  shawl  oyer 
my  knees.  And — thank  you,  Pierre — don't  be  anxious  about 
me.    I  no  longer  require  anyone  now  that  I  am  with  her.' 

Her  voice  died  away,  she  was  already  falling  iato  an  ecstasy, 
her  hands  clasped,  her  eyes  raised  towards  the  white  statue,  in 
a  beatific  transfiguration  of  the  whole  of  her  poor  suffering 

Yet  Pierre  remained  a  few  minutes  longer  beside  her.  He 
would  have  liked  to  wrap  her  in  the  shawl,  for  he  perceived 
the  trembling  of  her  little  wasted  hands.  But  he  feared  to 
annoy  her,  so  confined  himself  to  tucking  her  in  Uke  a  child  ; 
whilst  she,  slightly  raised,  with  her  elbows  on  the  edges  of  her 
box,  and  her  eyes  fixed  on  the  Grotto,  no  longer  beheld  him. 

A  bench  stood  near,  and  he  had  just  seated  himself  upon 
it,  intending  to  collect  his  thoughts,  when  his  glance  fell  upon 
a  woman  kneeling  in  the  gloom.  Dressed  in  black,  she  was 
so  shm,  so  discreet,  so  unobtrusive,  so  wrapt  in  darkness, 
that  at  first  he  had  not  noticed  her.  After  a  while,  however, 
he  recognised  her  as  Madame  Maze.  The  thought  of  the 
letter  which  she  had  received  during  the  day  then  recurred  to 
him.  And  the  sight  of  her  fiUed  him  with  pity ;  he  could  feel 
for  the  forlomness  of  this  solitary  woman,  who  had  no  physical 
sore  to  heal,  but  only  implored  the  Blessed  Virgin  to  relieve 
her  heart-pain  by  converting  her  inconstant  husband.  The 
letter  had  no  doubt  been  some  harsh  reply,  for,  with  bowed 
head,  she  seemed  almost  annihilated,  filled  with  the  humiUty 
of  some  poor  beaten  creatur&.  It  was  only  at  night-time  that 
she  readily  forgot  herself  there,  happy  at  disappearing,  at 
being  able  to  weep,  suffer  martyrdom,  and  implore  the  return  of 
the  lost  caresses,  for  hours  together,  without  any  one  suspeot- 



ing  her  grievous  secret.  Her  lips  did  not  even  move ;  it  was 
her  wounded  heart  which  prayed,  yhich  desperately  begged  for 
its  share  of  love  and  happiness.    ; 

Ah !  that  inextinguishable  thirst  for  happiness  which 
brought  them  all  there,  wounded,  either  in  body  or  in  spirit ; 
Pierre  also  felt  it  parching  his  throat,  in  an  ardent  desire  to 
be  quenched.  He  longed  to  cast  himself  upon  his  linees,  to 
beg  the  divine  aid  with  the  same  humble  faith  as  that 
woman.  But  his  limbs  were  as  though  tied ;  he  could  not  find 
the  words  he  wanted,  and  it  was  a  relief  when  he  at  last  felt 
someone  touch  him  on  the  arm.  '  Come  with  me.  Monsieur 
l'Abb6,  if  you  do  not  know  the  Grotto,'  said  a  voice.  '  I  will 
find  you  a  place.    It  is  so  pleasant  there  at  this  time ! ' 

He  raised  his  head,  and  recognised  Baron  Suire,  the  direc- 
tor of  the  Hospitality  of  Our  Lady  of  Salvation.  This  bene- 
volent and  simple  man-no  doubt  felt  some  affection  for  him. 
He  therefore  accepted  his  offer,  and  followed  him  into  the 
Grotto,  which  was  quite  empty.  The  Baron  had  a  key,  with 
which  he  locked  the  railing  behind  them. 

*  You  see.  Monsieur  1' Abb6,'  said  he, '  this  is  the  time  when 
one  can  really  be  comfortable  here.  For  my  part,  whenever 
I  come  to  spend  a  few  days  at  Lourdes,  I  seldom  retire  to  rest 
before  daybreak,  as  I  have  fallen  into  the  habit  of  finishing 
my  night  here.  The  place  is  deserted,  one  is  quite  alone,  and 
is  it  not  pleasant  ?  How  well  one  feels  oneself  to  be  in  the 
abode  of  the  Blessed  Virgin ! ' 

He  smiled  with  a  kindly  air,  doing  the  honours  of  the 
Grotto  like  an  old  frequenter  of  the  place,  somewhat  enfeebled 
by  age,  but  full  of  genuine  affection  for  this  dehghtful  nook. 
Moreover,  in  spite  of  his  great  piety,  he  was  in  no  way  ill  at 
ease  there,  but  talked  on  and  explained  matters  mth  the 
familiarity  of  a  man  who  felt  himself  to  be  the  friend 
of  Heaven.  AV 

'  Ah  1  you  ard "looking  at  the  tapers,'  he  said.  '  There  are 
about  two  hundred  of  them  which  burn  together  night  and 
day ;  and  they  end  by  making  the  place  warm.  It  is  even 
warm  here  in  winter.' 

Indeed,  Pierre  was  beginning  to  feel  incommoded  by  the 
warm  odour  of  the  wax.  Dazzled  by  the  brilliant  light  into 
which  he  was  penetrating,  he  gazed  at  the  large  central 

Eyramidal  holder,  all  bristling  vrith  little  tapers,  and  resem- 
ling  a  luminous  clipped  yew  glistening  with  stars.    In  the 
background,  a  straight  holder,  on  a  level  with  the  grouadi 

THE  VIGIL  .  459 

upheld  the  large  tapers,  -which,  like  the  pipes  of  an  organ, 
formed  a  row  of  uneven  height,  some  of  them  being  as  large 
as  a  man's  thigh.  And  yet  other  holders,  resembling  massive 
candelabra,  stood  here  and  there  on  the  jutting  parts  of  the 
rock.  The  vault  of  the  Grotto  sank  towards  the  left,  where 
the  stone  seemed  baked  and  blackened  by  the  eternal  flames 
which  had  been  heating  it  for  years.  And  the  wax  was  per- 
petually dripping  like  fine  snow;  the  trays  of  the  holders 
were  smothered  with  it,  whitened  by  its  ever-thickening  dust. 
In  fact,  it  coated  the  whole  rock,  which  had  become  quite 
greasy  to  the  touch ;  and  to  such  a  degree  did  it  cover  the 
ground  that  accidents  had  occurred,  and  it  had  been  necessary 
to  spread  some  mats  about  to  prevent  persons  from  slipping. 

'You  see  those  large  ones  there,'  obligingly  continued 
Baron  Suire.  '  They  are  the  most  expensive,  and  cost  sixty 
francs  apiece  ;  they  will  continue  burning  for  a  month.  The 
smallest  ones,  which  cost  but  five  sous  each,  only  last  three 
hours.  Oh !  we  don't  husband  them ;  we  never  run  short. 
Look  here !  Here  are  two  more  hampers  full,  which  there 
has  not  yet  been  time  to  remove  to  the  storehouse.' 

Then  he  pointed  to  the  furniture,  which  comprised  a  har- 
monium covered  with  a  cloth,  a  substantial  dresser  with 
several  large  drawers  in  which  the  sacred  vestments  were 
kept,  some  benches  and  chairs  reserved  for  the  privileged  few 
who  were  admitted  during  the  ceremonies,  and  finally  a  very 
handsome  movable  altar,  which  was  adorned  with  engraved 
silver  plates,  the  gift  of  a  great  lady,  and — for  fear  of  injury 
from  dampness — was  only  brought  out  on  the  occasions  of 
remunerative  pilgrimages. 

Pierre  was  disturbed  by  all  this  well-meant  chatter.  His 
rdigious  emotion  lost  some  of  its  charm.  In  spite  of  his  lack 
of  faith,  he  had,  on  entering,  experienced  a  feeling  of  agitation, 
a  heaving  of  the  soul,  as  though  the  Mystery  were  about  to 
be  revealed  to  him.  It  was  at  the  same  time  both  an 
anxious  and  a  delicious  feeling.  And  he  beheld  things  which 
deeply  stirred  him :  bunches  of  flowers,  lying  in  a  heap  at  the 
Virgin's  feet,  with  the  votive  offerings  of  children — httle  faded 
shoes,  a  tiny  iron  corselet,  and  a  doll-like  crutch  which  almost 
seemed  to  be  a  toy.  Beneath  the  natural  ogival  cavity 
■in  which  the  apparition  had  appeared,  at  the  spot  where  the 
pilgrims  rubbed  the  chaplets  and  medals  they  wished  to  con- 
secrate, the  rock  was  quite  worn  away  and  pohshed.  Mil- 
lions of  ardent  lips  had  pressed  kisses  qq  the  wall  with  such 



intensity  of  love  that  the  stone  was  as  though  Calcined, 
streaked  with  black  veins,  shining  like  marble. 

However,  he  stopped  short  at  last  opposite  a  cavity  in 
which  lay  a  considerable  pile  of  letters  and  papers  of  every 

'  Ah  I  I  was  forgetting,'  hastily  resumed  Baron  Suire  ; 
'  this  is  the  most  interesting  part  of  it.  These  are  the  letters 
which  the  faithful  throw  into  the  Grotto  through  the  railing 
every  day.  We  gather  them  up  and  place  them  there ;  and 
in  the  winter  I  amuse  myself  by  glancing  through  them. 
You  see,  we  cannot  burn  them  without  opening  them,  for 
they  often  contain  money — ^francs,  half-francs,  and  especially 
postage  stamps.' 

He  stirred  up  the  letters,  and  selecting  a  few  at  random, 
showed  the  addresses,  and  opened  them  to  read.  Nearly  all 
of  them  were  letters  from  iUiterate  persons,  with  the  super- 
scription, '  To  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes,'  scrawled  on  the  en- 
velopes in  big,  irregular  handwriting.  Many  of  them  con- 
tained requests  or  thanks,  incorrectly  worded  and  wondrously 
spelt ;  and  nothing  was  more  affecting  than  the  nature  of 
some  of  the  petitions:  a  little  brother  to  be  saved,  a  law- 
suit to  be  gained,  a  lover  to  be  preserved,  a  marriage  to  be 
effected.  Other  letters,  however,  were  angry  ones,  -taking  the 
Blessed  Virgin  to  task  for  not  having  had  the  politeness  to 
acknowledge  a  former  communication  by  granting  the  writer's 
prayers.  Then  there  were  still  others,  written  in  a  finer  hand, 
with  carefully  worded  phrases  containing  confessions  and 
fervent  entreaties ;  and  these  were  from  women  who  confided 
to  the  Queen  of  Heaven  things  which  they  dared  not  even  say 
to  a  priest  in  the  shadow  of  the  confessional.  Finally,  one 
envelope,  selected  at  random,  merely  contained  a  photograph  ; 
a  young  girl  had  sent  her  portrait  to  Our  Lady  of  Lonrdea, 
with  this  dedication :  '  To  my  good  Mother.'  In  short,  they 
every  day  received  the  correspondence  of  a  most  powerful 
Queen,  to  whom  both  prayers  and  secrets  were  addressed,  and 
who  was  expected  to  reply  with  favours  and  kindnesses  of 
every  kind.  The  franc  and  half-franc  pieces  were  simple 
tokens  of  love  to  propitiate  her ;  while,  as  for  the  postage 
stamps,  these  could  only  be  sent  for  convenience'  sake,  in  lieu 
of  coined  money ;  unless,  indeed,  they  were  sent  guilelessly,  as  in 
the  case  of  a  peasant  woman  who  had  added  a  postscript  to  her 
letter  to  say  that  she  enclosed  a  stamp  for  the  reply. 

'  I  can  assure  you,'  concluded  the  Baron, '  that  there  axe 

THE  VIGIL  261 

some  very  nice  ones  among  them,  mueh  less  foolish  than  you 
might  imagine.  During  a  period  of  three  years  I  constantly 
found  some  very  interesting  letters  from  a  lady  who  did 
nothing  without  relating  it  to  the  Blessed  Virgin.  She  was 
a  married  woman,  and  entertained  a  most  dangerous  passion 
for  a  friend  of  her  husband's.  Well,  Monsieur  I'Abbl,  she 
overcame  it ;  the  Blessed  Virgin  answered  her  by  sending  her 
an  armour  for  her  chastity,  an  all-divine  power  to  resist  the 
promptings  of  her  heart.'  Then  he  broke  off  to  say :  '  But 
come  and  seat  yourself  here.  Monsieur  I'Abbd.  You  will  see 
how.  comfortable  you  will  be.' 

Pierre  went  and  placed  himself  beside  him  on  a  bench  on 
the  left  hand,  at  the  spot  where  the  rock  hung  lower.  This 
was  a  dehciously  reposeful  corner,  and  neither  the  one  nor 
the  other  spoke ;  a  profound  silence  had  ensued,  when,  behind 
him,  Pierre  heard  an  indistinct  murmur,  a  light  crystaUine 
voice,  which  seemed  to  come  from  the  Invisible.  He  gave  a 
start,  which  Baron  Suire  understood. 

'  That  is  the  spring  which  you  hear,'  said  he ;  '  it  is  there, 
underground,  below  this  grating.  Would  you  like  to  see 

And,  without  waiting  for  Pierre's  reply,  he  at  once  bent 
down  to  open  one  of  the  iron  plates  protecting  the  spring, 
mentioning  that  it  was  thus  closed  up  in  order  to  prevent 
freethinkers  from  throwing  poison  into  it.  For  a  moment 
this  extraordinary  idea  quite  amazed  the  priest ;  but  he  ended 
by  attributing  it  entirely  to  the  Baron,  who  was,  indeed,  very 
childish.  The  latter,  meantime,  was  vainly  struggling  with 
the  padlock,  which  opened  by  a  combination  of  letters  and 
refused  to  yield  to  his  endeavours.  '  It  is  singular,'  he  mut- 
tered ;  '  the  word  is  'Borne,  and  I  am  positive  that  it  hasn't  been 
changed.  The  damp  destroys  everything.  Every  two  years 
or  so  we  are  obliged  to  replace  those  crutches  up  there,  other- 
wise they  would  aU  rot  away.  Be  good  enough  to  bring  me  a 

By  the  light  of  the  candle  which  Pierre  then  took  from 
one  of  the  holders,  he  at  last  succeeded  in  unfastening  the 
brass  padlock,  which  was  covered  with  vert-de-gris.  Then, 
the  plate  having  been  raised,  the  spring  appeared  to  view. 
Upon  a  bed  of  muddy  gravel,  in  a  fissure  of  the  rock,  there 
was  a  limpid  stream,  quite  tranquil,  but  seemingly  spreading 
over  a  rather  large  surface.  The  Baron  explained  that  it  had 
beeo  necessary  to  conduct  it  to  the  fouutaJus  through  pipea 


coated  with  cement ;  and  he  even  admitted  that,  behind  the 
piseinas,  a  large  cistern  had  been  dug  in  which  the  water 
\7as  collected  during  the  night,  as  otherwise  the  small  out- 
put of  the  source  would  not  suffice  for  the  daily  require- 

'  Will  you  taste  it  ? '  he  suddenly  asked.  '  It  is  much 
better  here,  fresh  from  the  earth.' 

Pierre  did  not  answer ;  he  was  gazing  at  that  tranqml, 
innocent  water,  which  assumed  a  moire-like  golden  sheen  in 
the  dancing  light  of  the  taper.  The  falling  drops  of  wax 
now  and  again  ruffled  its  surface.  And,  as  he  gazed  at  it,  the 
young  priest  pondered  upon  all  the  mystery  it  brought  with 
it  from  the  distant  mountain  slopes. 

'  Come,  drink  some  1 '  said  the  Baron,  who  had  already 
dipped  and  fiUed  a  glass  which  was  kept  there  handy.  The 
priest  had  no  choice  but  to  empty  it ;  it  was  good  pure  water, 
fresh  and  transparent,  Hke  that  which  flows  from  all  the  lofty 
uplands  of  the  Pyrenees. 

After  refastening  the  padlock,  they  both  returned  to  the 
bench.  Now  and  again  Pierre  could  still  hear  the  spring 
flowing  behind  him,  with  a  music  resembUng  the  gentle 
warble  of  an  unseen  bird.  But  the  Baron  was  again  talking, 
giving  him  the  history  of  the  Grotto  at  all  times  and  seasons, 
in  a  pathetic  babble,  replete  with  puerile  details. 

The  summer  was  the  roughest  season,  for  then  came  the 
great  itinerant  pilgrimage  crowds,  with  the  uproarious  fervour 
of  thousands  6f  eager  beings,  all  praying  and  vociferating 
together.  But  with  the  autumn  came  the  rain,  those  diluvial 
rains  which  beat  against  the  Grotto  entrance  for  days 
together ;  and  with  them  arrived  the  pilgrims  from  remote 
countries,  small,  silent,  and  ecstatic  bands  of  Indians,  Malays, 
and  even  Chinese,  who  fell  upon  their  knees  in  the  mud  at 
a  sign  from  the  missionaries  accompanying  them.  Of  all  the 
old  provinces  of  Prance,  it  was  Brittany  that  sent  the  most 
devout  pilgrims,  whole  parishes  arriving  together,  the  men  as 
numerous  as  the  women,  and  all  displaying  a  pious  deport- 
ment, a  simple  and  unostentatious  faith,  such  as  might  edify 
the  world.  Then  came  the  winter,  December  with  its  terrible 
cold,  its  dense  snow-drifts  blocking  the  momitain  ways.  But 
even  then  families  put  up  at  the  hotels,  and,  despite  every- 
thing, faithful  worshippers — aU  those  who,  fleeing  the  noise  of 
the  world,  wished  to  speak  to  the  Virgin  in  the  tender 
latimaoy  of  solitude — still  came  every  morning  to  the  Grotto. 

THE  VIGIL  263 

Among  them  were  some  whom  no  one  knew,  who  appeared 
directly  they  felt  certain  they  would  be  alone  there  to  kneel 
and  love  like  jealous  lovers ;  and  who  departed,  frightened 
away  by  the  first  suspicion  of  a  crowd.  And  how  warm  and 
pleasant  the  place  was  throughout  the  foul  winter  weather  1 
In  spite  of  rain  and  wind  and  snow,  the  Grotto  still  continued 
flaring.  Even  during  nights  of  howling  tempest,  when  not 
a  soul  was  there,  it  lighted  up  the  empty  darkness,  blazing 
like  a  brazier  of  love  that  nothing  could  extinguish.  The 
Baron  related  that,  at  the  time  of  the  heavy  snowfall  of  the 
previous  winter,  he  had  frequently  spent  whole  afternoons 
there,  on  the  bench  were  they  were  then  seated.  A  gentle 
warmth  prevailed  there,  although  the  spot  faced  the  north  and 
was  never  reached  by  a  ray  of  sunshine.  No  doubt  the  circum- 
stance of  the  burning  tapers  continuously  heating  the  rock 
explained  this  generous  warmth ;  but  might  one  not  also 
believe  in  some  charming  kindness  on  the  part  of  the  Virgin, 
who  endowed  the  spot  with  perpetual  springtide  ?  And  the 
little  birds  were  well  aware  of  it ;  when  the  snow  on  the 
ground  froze  their  feet,  all  the  finches  of  the  neighbourhood 
sought  shelter  there,. fluttering  about  in  the  ivy  around  the 
holy  statue.  At  length  came  the  awakening  of  the  real 
spring :  the  Gave,  swollen  with  melted  snow,  and  rolhng  on 
with  a  voice  of  thunder :  the  trees,  under  the  action  of  their 
sap,  arraying  themselves  in  a  mantle  of  greenery,  whilst  the 
crowds,  once  more  returning,  noisily  invaded  the  sparkling 
Grotto,  whence  they  drove  the  little  birds  of  heaven. 

'  Yes,  yes,'  repeated  Baron  Suire,  in  a  declining  voice, '  I 
spent  some  most  delightful  winter  days  here  all  alone.  I  saw 
no  one  but  a  woman,  who  leant  against  the  railing  to  avoid 
kneeling  in  the  snow.  She  was  quite  young,  twenty-five  per- 
haps, and  very  pretty — dark,  with  magnificent  blue  eyes.  She 
never  spoke,  and  did  not  even  seem  to  ,pray,  but  remained 
there  for  hours  together,  looking  intensely  sad.  I  do  not  know 
who  she  was,  nor  have  I  ever  seen  her  since.' 

He  ceased  speaking ;  and  when,  a  couple  of  minutes  later, 
Pierre,  surprised  at  his  sUence,  looked  at  him,  he  perceived 
that  he  had  fallen  asleep.  With  his  hands  clasped  upon  his 
belly,  his  chin  resting  on  his  chest,  he  slept  as  peacefully  as  a 
child,  a  smile  hovering  the  while  about  his  mouth.  Doubtless, 
when  he  said  that  he  spent  the  night  there,  he  meant  that  he 
came  thither  to  indulge  in  the  early  nap  of  a  happy  old  man, 
whose  dreams  are  of  the  angels.    And  now  Pierre  tasted  all 

264  LOURDES: 

the  charms  of  the  solitude.  It  was  indeed  true  that  a  feeling 
of  peacefulness  and  comfort  permeated  the  soul  in  this  rocky 
nook.  It  was  occasioned  by  the  somewhat  stifling  fumes  of 
the  burning  wax,  by  the  transplendent  ecstasy  into  which  you 
sank  amidst  the  glare  of  the  tapers.  The  young  priest  could 
no  longer  distinctly  see  the  crutches  on  the  roof,  the  votive 
offerings  hanging  from  the  sides,  the  altar  of  engraved  silver, 
and  the  harmonium  in  its  wrapper,  for  a  slow  intoxication 
seemed  to  be  stealing  over  him,  a  gradual  prostration  of  his 
whole  being.  And  he  particularly  experienced  the  divine  sen- 
sation of  having  left  the  living  world,  of  having  attained  to 
the  far  realms  of  the  marvellous  and  the  superhuman,  as 
though  that  simple  iron  railing  yonder  had  become  the  very 
barrier  of  the  infinite. 

However,  a  slight  noise  on  his  left  again  disturbed  him. 
It  was  the  spring  flowing,  ever  flowing  on,  with  its  bird-like 
warble.  Ah  1  how  he  would  have  liked  to  fall  upon  his  knees 
and  beheve  in  the  miracle,  to  acquire  a  certain  conviction  that 
that  divine  water  had  gushed  from  the  rock  solely  for  the 
healing  of  suffering  humanity.  Had  he  not  come  there  to 
prostrate  himself  and  implore  the  Yirgia  to  restore  the  faith 
of  his  childhood  ?  Why,  then,  did  he  not  pray,  why  did  he 
not  beseech  her  to  bring  him  back  to  grace  ?  His  feeling  of 
suffocation  increased,  the  burning  tapers  dazzled  Viim  almost 
to  the  point  of  giddiness.  And,  aU  at  once,  the  recollection 
came  to  him  that  for  two  days  past,  amidst  the  great  freedom 
which  priests  enjoyed  at  Lourdes,  he  had  neglected  to  say  his 
mass.  He  was  in  a  state  of  sin,  and  perhaps  it  was  the  weight 
of  this  transgression  which  was  oppressing  his  heart.  He 
suffered  so  much  that  he  was  at  last  compiled  to  rise  &om 
his  seat  and  walk  away.  He  gently  closed  the  gate  behind 
him,  leaving  Baron  Suire  still  asleep  on  the  bench.  Marie,  he 
found,  had  not  stirred,  but  was  stiU  raised  on  her  elbows,  with 
her  ecstatic  eyes  uplifted  towards  the  figure  of  the  Virgin. 

,'  How  are  you,  Marie  ? '  asked  Pierre.  '  Don't  you  feel 
cold  ? ' 

She  did  not  reply.  He  felt  her  hands,  and  found  them 
warm  and  soft,  albeit  slightly  trembling.  '  It  is  not  the  cold 
which  makes  you  tremble,  is  it,  Marie  ? '  he  asked. 

In  a  voice  as  gentle  as  a  zephyr  she  repUed :  '  Ho,  no  i 
let  me  be ;  I  am  so  happy  I  I  shall  see  her,  I  feel  it.  Ah  t 
what  joy  I ' 

So,  after  slightly  pulling  up  h@r  shawl,  he  went  forth  into 

THE   VIGIL  265 

the  night,  a  prey  to  indescribable  agitation.  Beyond  the 
bright  glow  of  the  Grotto  was  a  night  as  black  as  ink,  a  re- 
gion of  darkness,  into  which  he  plunged  at  random.  Then, 
as  his  eyes  became  accustomed  to  this  gloom,  he  found  him- 
self near  the  Gave,  and  skirted  it,  following  a  path  shaded  by 
tall  trees,  where  he  again  came  upon  a  refreshing  obscurity. 
This  shade  and  coolness,  both  so  soothing,  now  brought  him 
reUef.  And  his  only  surprise  was  that  hfe  had  not  fallen  on 
his  knees  in  the  Grotto,  and  prayed,  even  as  Marie  was  pray- 
ing, with  all  the  power  of  his  soul.  What  could  be  the 
obstacle  within  him  ?  Whence  came  the  irresistible  revolt 
which  prevented  him  from  surrendering  himself  to  faith  even 
when  his  overtaxed,  tortured  being  longed  to  yield  ?  He  un- 
derstood well  enough  that  it  was  his  reason  alone  which  pro- 
tested, and  the  time  had  come  when  he  would  gladly  have 
MUed  that  voracious  reason,  which  was  devouring  his  hfe  and  % 
preventing  him  from  enjoying  the  happiness  allowed  to  the  ' 
ignorant  and  the  simple.  Perhaps,  had  he  beheld  a  miracle, 
he  might  have  acquired  enough  strength  of  will  to  believe. 
For  instance,  would  he  not  have  bowed  himself  down,  van- 
quished at  last,  if  Marie  had  suddenly  risen  up  and  walked 
before  him.  The  scene  which  he  conjured  up  of  Marie 
saved,  Marie  cured,  affected  him  so  deeply  that  he  stopped 
short,  his  trembling  arms  uplifted  towards  the  star-spangled 
vault  of  heaven.  What  a  lovely  night  it  was  t — so  deep 
and  mysterious,  so  airy  and  fragrant ;  and  what  joy  rained 
down  at  the  hope  that  eternal  health  might  be  restored, 
that  eternal  love  might  ever  revive,  even  as  spring  returns  I 
Then  he  continued  his  walk,  following  the  path  to  the 
end.  But  his  doubts  were  again  coming  back  to  him ;  when 
you  need  a  miracle  to  gain  behef,  it  means  that  you  are 
incapable  of  beHeving.  There  is  no  need  for  the  Almighty 
to  prove  His  existence.  Pierre  also  felt  uneasy  at  the  thought 
that,  so  long  as  he  had  not  discharged  his  priestly  duties  by 
saying  his  mass,  his  prayers  would  not  be  answered.  Why 
did  he  not  go  at  once  to  the  church  of  the  Eosary,  whose 
altars,  &om  midnight  till  noon,  are  placed  at  the  disposal  of 
the  priests  who  come  from  a  distance  ?  Thus  thinking,  he 
descended  by  another  path,  again  finding  himself  beneath  the 
trees,  near  the  leafy  spot  whence  he  and  Marie  had  watched 
the  march  past  of  the  procession  of  tapers.  Not  a  light  now 
remained,  there  was  but  a  boundless  expanse  of  gloom. 
Here  Pierre  experienced  a  fresh  attack  of  f aintness, :  and 


as  though  jn)  gain  time,  he  turned  mechanically  into  the 
pilgrims'  shelter-house.  Its  door  had  remained  wide  open ; 
still  this  failed  to  sufficiently  ventilate  the  spacious  hall, 
which  was  now  crowded  with  people.  On  the  very  threshold 
Pierre  felt  oppressed  by  the  stifling  heat  emanating  from  the 
multitude  of  bodies,  the  dense  pestilential  '.smell  t>f  human 
breath  and  perspiration.  The  smoking  lanterns  gave  out  so 
bad  a  light  that  he  had  to  pick  his  way  with  extreme  care  in 
order  to  avoid  treading  upon  outstretched  limbs ;  for  the 
overcrowding  was  extraordinary,  and  many  persons,  unable 
to  find  room  on  the  benches,  had  stretched  themselves  on  the 
pavement,  on  the  damp  stone  slabs  fouled  by  all  the  refuse  of 
the  day.  And  on  all  sides  indescribable  promiscuousness 
prevailed :  prostrated  by  overpowering  weariness,  men,  women, 
and  priests  were  lying  there  pell-mell,  at  random,  open- 
mouthed  and  utterly  exhausted.  A  large  number  were  snor- 
ing, seated  on  the  slabs,  with  their  backs  resting  against  the 
walls  and  their  heads  drooping  on  their  chests.  Others  had 
slipped  down,  with  limbs  intermingled,  and  one  yoxmg  girl 
lay  prostrate  across  an  old  country  priest,  who  in  his  calm 
childlike  slumber  was  smiling  at  the  angels.  It  was  like 
a  cattle-shed  sheltering  poor  wanderers  of  the  roads,  all 
who  were  homeless  on  that  beautiful  holiday  night,  and 
who  had  dropped  in  there  and  fallen  fraternally  asleep. 
Still,  there  were  some  who  found  no  repose  in  their  feverish 
excitement,  but  turned  and  twisted,  or  rose  up  to  finish  eating 
the  food  which  remained  in  their  baskets.  Others  could  be 
seen  lying  perfectly  motionless,  their  eyes  wide  open  and 
fixed  upon  the  gloom.  The  cries  of  dreamers,  the  wailing  of 
sufferers,  arose  amidst  general  snoring.  And  pity  came  to 
the  heart,  a  pity  full  of  anguish,  at  sight  of  tMs  fiock  of 
wretched  beings  lying  there  in  heaps  in  loathsome  rags, 
whilst  their  poor  spotless  souls  no  doubt  were  far  away  in 
the  blue  realm  of  some  mystical  dream. 

Pierre  was  on  the  point  of  withdrawing,  feeling  sick  at 
heart,  when  a  low  continuous  moan  attracted  his  attention. 
He  looked,  and  recognised  Madame  Yincent,  on  the  same  spot 
and  in  the  same  position  as  before,  still  nursing  httle  Bose 
upon  her  lap.  '  Ah  1  Monsieur  TAbbS,'  the  poor  woman 
murmured,  '  you  hear  her ;  she  woke  up  nearly  an  hour  ago, 
and  has  been  sobbing  ever  since.  Yet  I  assure  you  I  have 
not  moved  even  a  finger,  I  felt  so  happy  at  seeing  her  sleep.' 

The  priest  bent  down,  examining  the  little  one,  who  had 

THE  VIGIL  267 

not  even  the  strengtli  to  raise  her  eyelids.  A  plaintive  cry  no 
Btronger  than  a  breath  was  coming  from  her  lips ;  and  she 
was  so  white  that  he  shuddered,  for  he  felt  that  death  was 
hovering  near. 

'  Dear  me  I  what  shall  I  do  ? '  continued  the  poor  mother, 
utterly  worn  out.  '  This  cannot  last ;  I  can  no  longer  bear  to 
hear  her  cry.  iAnd  if  you  knew  all  that  I  have  been  saying  to 
her  :  "  My  jewel,  my  treasure,  my  angel,  I  beseech  you  cry 
no  more.  Be  good ;  the  Blessed  Virgin  will  cure  you  1 "  And 
yet  she  still  cries  on.' 

With  these  words,  the  poor  creature  burst  out  sobbing, 
her  big  tears  falling  on  the  face  of  the  child,  whose  rattle  still 
continued.  '  Had  it  been  daylight,'  she  resumed,  '  I  would 
long  ago  have  left  this  hall,  the  more  especially  as  she  dis- 
turbs the  others.  There  is  an  old  lady  yonder  who  has 
already  complained.  But  I  fear  it  may  be  chilly  outside ; 
and  besides,  where  could  I  go  in  the  middle  of  the  night  ? 
Ah  !  Blessed  Virgia,  Blessed  Virgin,  take  pity  upon  us  1 ' 

Overcome  by  emotion,  Pierre  kissed  the  child's  fair  head, 
and  then  hastened  away  to  avoid  bursting  into  tears  hke  the 
sorrowing  mother.  And  he  went  straight  to  the  Eosary,  as 
though  he  were  determined  to  conquer  death. 

He  had  abeady  beheld  the  Eosary  in  broad  daylight,  and 
had  been  displeased  by  the  aspect  of  this  church,  which  the 
architect,  fettered  by  the  rock-bound  site,  had  been  obhged  to 
make  circular  and  low,  so  that  it  seemed  crushed  beneath  its 
great  cupola,  which  square  pillars  supported.  The  worst  was 
that,,  despite  its  archaic  Byzantine  style,  it  altogether  lacked 
any  religious  appearance,  and  suggested  neither  mystery  nor 
meditation.  Indeed,  with  the  glaring  Ught  admitted  by  the 
cupola  and  the  broad  glazed  doors  it  w;as  more  like  some  brand 
new  corurmarket.  And  then,  too,  it  was  not  yet  completed : 
the  decorations  were  lacking,  the  bare  walls  against  which  the 
altars  stood  had  no  other  embellishment  than  some  artificial 
roses  of  coloured  paper  and  a  few  insignificant  votive  offer- 
ings ;  and  this  bareness  heightened  the  resemblance  to  some 
vast  public  hall.  Moreover,  in  time  of  rain  the  paved  floor 
became  as  muddy  as  that  of  a  general  waiting-room  at  a 
railway  station;  The  high  altar  was  a  temporary  structure  of 
painted  wood.  Innumerable  rows  of  benches  filled  the  central 
rotunda,  benches  free  to  the  pubhc,  on  which  people  could 
come  and  rest  at  all  hours,  for  night  and  day  ahke  the  Eosary 
remained  open  to  the  swarming  pilgrims.    Like  the  shelter- 


house,  it  was  a  cowshed  in  which  the  Almighty  received  the 
poor  ones  of  the  earth. 

On  entering,  Pierre  felt  himself  to  be  in  some  common 
hall  trod  by  the  footsteps  of  an  ever-changing  crowd.  But 
the  brilliant  sunlight  no  longer  streamed  on  the  pallid  walls, 
the  tapers  burning  at  every  altar  simply  gleamed  like  stars 
amidst  the  uncertain  gloom  which  filled  the  building.  A 
solemn  high  mass  had  been  celebrated  at  midnight  with 
extraordinary  pomp,  amidst  aU  the  splendour  of  candles, 
chants,  golden  vestments,  and  swinging,  steaming  censers ; 
but  of  aU  this  glorious  display  there  now  remained  only  the 
regulation  number  of  tapers  necessary  for  the  celebration  of 
the  masses  at  each  of  the  fifteen  altarsranged  around  the  edifice. 
These  masses  began  at  midnight  and  did  not  cease  till  noon. 
Nearly  four  hunted  were  said  during  those  twelve  hours  at 
the  Eosary  alone.  Taking  the  whole  of  Lourdes,  where  there 
were  altogether  some  fifty  altars,  more  than  two  thousand 
masses  were  celebrated  daily.  And  so  great  was  the  abun- 
dance of  priests,  that  many  had  extreme  difficulty  in  fulfilling 
their  duties,  having  to  wait  for  hours  together  before  they 
could  find  an  altar  unoccupied.  What  particularly  struck 
Pierre  that  evening,  was  the  sight  of  aU  the  altars  besieged  by 
rows  of  priests  patiently  awaiting  their  turn  in  the  A\m  light 
at  the  foot  of  the  steps;  whilst  the  officiating  minister 
galloped  through  the  Latin  phrases,  hastily  pimctuating  them 
with  the  prescribed  signs  of  the  cross.  And  the  weariness  of 
all  the  waiting  ones  was  so  great,  that  most  of  them  were 
seated  on  the  flagstones,  some  even  dozing  on  the  altar  steps 
in  heaps,  quite  overpowered,  relying  on  the  beadle  to  come 
and  rouse  them. 

For  a  moment  Pierre  walked  about  undecided.  Was  he  • 
going  to  wait  like  the  others  ?  However,  the  scene  determined 
him  against  doing  so.  At  every  altar,  at  every  mass,  a  crowd 
of  pilgrims  was  gathered,  communicating  in  aU  haste  with  a 
sort  of  voracious  fervour.  Each  pyx  was  filled  and  emptied 
incessantly,  the  priests'  hands  grew  tired  in  thus  distributing 
the  bread  of  Hf  e ;  and  Pierre's  surprise  increased  at  the  sight. 
Never  before  had  he  beheld  a  comer  of  this  earth  so  watered 
by  the  divine  blood,  whence  faith  took  wing  in  such  a  flight  of 
souls.  It  was  Uke  a  return  to  the  heroic  days  of  the  Church, 
when  all  nations  prostrated  themselves  beneath  the  same 
blast  of  credulity  in  their  terrified  ignorance  which  led  them 
to  place  their  hope  of  eternal  happiness  ia.  an  Almighty  God.  He 

fHE   VIGIL  269 

could  fancy  himself  carried  back  some  eight  or  nine  centuries, 
to  the  time  of  great  pubUo  piety,  when  people  believed  in  the 
approaching  end  of  the  world ;  and  this  he  could  fancy  the 
more  readily  as  the  crowd  of  simple  folk,  the  whole  host  that 
had  attended  high  mass,  was  still  seated  on  the  benches,  as 
much  at  ease  in  God's  house  as  at  home.  Many  had  no  place 
of  refuge.  Was  not  the  church  their  home,  the  asylum 
where  consolation  awaited  them  both  by  day  and  by  night  ? 
Those  who  knew  not  where  to  sleep,  who  had  not  found  room 
even  at  the  shelter  place,  came  to  the  Eosary,  where  some- 
times they  succeeded  in  finding  a  vacant  seat  on  a  bench,  at 
others  sufficient  space  to  lie  down  on  the  flagstones.  And 
others  who  had  beds  awaiting  them  lingered  there  for  the  joy 
of  passing  a  whole  night  in  that  divine  abode,  so  full  of  beauti- 
ful dreams.  Until  daylight  the  concourse  and  promiscuity 
were  extraordinary ;  every  row  of  benches  was  occupied,  sleep- 
ing persons  were  scattered  in  every  corner  and  behind  every 
pillar  ;  men,  women,  children  were  leaning  against  each  other, 
their  heads  on  one  another's  shoulders,  their  breath  mingling 
in  calm  unconsciousness.  It  was  the  break-up  of  a  religious 
gathering  overwhelmed  by  sleep,  a  church  transformed  into  a" 
chance  hospital,  its  door  wide  open  to  the  lovely  August  night, 
giving  access  to  all  who  were  wandering  in  the  darlmess,  the 
good  and  the  bad,  the  weary  and  the  lost.  And  all  over  the 
place,  from  each  of  the  fifteen  altars,  the  bells  announcing  the 
elevation  of  the  Host  incessantly  sounded,  whilst  from  among 
the  mob  of  sleepers  bands  of  believers  now  and  again  arose, 
went  and  received  the  sacrament,  and  then  returned  to  mingle 
once  more  with  the  nameless,  shepherdless  fiock  which  the 
semi-obscurity  enveloped  like  a  veil. 

With  an  air  of  restless  indecision,  Pierre  was  still  wander- 
ing through  the  shadowy  groups,  when  an  old  priest,  seated 
on  the  step  of  an  altar,  beckoned  to  him.  For  two  hours  he 
had  been  waiting  there,  and  now  that  his  turn  was  at  length 
arriving  he  felt  so  faint  that  he  feared  he  might  not  have 
strength  to  say  the  whole  of  his  mass,  and  preferred,  -therefore, 
to  surrender  his  place  to  another.  No  doubt  the  sight  of 
Pierre,  wandering  so  distressfully  in  the  gloom,  had  moved 
him.  He  pointed  the  vestry  out  t6  him,  waited  until  he  re- 
turned with  chasuble  and  chaUoe,  and  then  went  off  and  fell 
into  a  sound  sleep  on  one  of  the  neighbouring  benches. 
Pierre  thereupon  said  his  mass  in  the  same  way  as  he  said  it 
at  Paris,  like  a  worthy  man  fulfilling  a  professional  duty.  He 


outwardly  mainiained  an  air  of  sincere  faith.  But,  contrary 
to  what  he  had  expected  fcom  the  two  feverish  days  through 
which  he  had  just  gone,  from  the  extraordinary  and  agitating 
surroundings  amidst  which  he  had  spent  the  last  few  hours, 
nothing  moved  him  nor  touched  his  heart.  He  had  hoped 
that  a  great  commotion  would  overpower  him  at  th6  moment 
of  the  communion,  when  the  divine  mystery  is  accomphshed ; 
that  he  would  find  hiinself  m  view  of  Paradise,  steeped  in  grace, 
in  the  very  presence  of  the  Almighty;  but  there  was  no 
manifestation,  his  cffilled  heart  did  not  even  throb,  he  went 
on  to  the  end  pronouncing  the  usual  words,  ma,ting  the-regu- 
lation  gestures,  with  the  mechanical  accuracy  of  the  profession. 
In .  spite  of  his  effort  to  be  fervent,  one  single  idea  kept 
obstinately  returning  to  his  mind — that  the"  vestry  was  far  too 
small,  since  such  an  enormous  number  of  masses  had  to  be 
said.  How  could  the  sacristans  manage  to  distribute  the 
holy  vestments  and  the  cloths  ?  It  puzzled  him,  and  engaged 
his  thoughts  with  absurd  persistency. 

At  length,  to  his  surprise,  he  once  more  found  himself 
outside.  Again  he  wandered  through  the  night,  a  night  which 
'seemed  to  him  utterly  void,  darker  and  stiller  than  before. 
The  town  was  lifeless,  not  a  light  was  gleaming.  There  only 
remained  the  growl  of  the  Gave,  which  his  accustomed  ears 
no  longer  heard.  And  suddenly,  similar  to  a  miraculous 
apparition,  the  Grotto  blazed  before  him,  illumining  the  dark- 
ness with  its  everlasting  brasier,  which  buriit  with  a  flame  of 
inextinguishable  love.  He  had  returned  thither  unconsciously, 
attracted  no  doubt  by  thoughts  of  Marie.  Three  o'clock  was 
about  to  strike,  the  benches  before  the  Grotto  were  emptying, 
and  only  some  twenty  persons  remained  there,  dark,  indistinct 
forms,  kneeling  in  slumberous  ecstasy,  wrapped  in  divine 
torpor.  It  seemed  as  though  the  night  in  progressing  had 
increased  the  gloom,  and  imparted  a  remote  visionary  aspect 
to  the  Grotto.  All  faded  away  amidst  delicious  lassitude, 
sleep  reigned  supreme  over  the  dim,  far-spreading  country  side ; 
whilst  the  voice  of  the  invisible  waters  seemed  to  be  merely  the 
breathing  of  this  pure  slumber,  upon  which  the  Blessed  Virgin, 
aU  white  with  her  aureola  of  tapers,  was  smiling.  And  among 
the  few  unconscious  women  was  Madame  Maze,  still  kneeling, 
with  clasped  hands  and  bowed  head,  but  so  indistinct  that  she 
seemed  to  have  melted  away  amidst  her  ardent  prayer. 

Pierre,  however,  had  immediately  gone  up  to  Marie.  Ha 
■waa  shivering,  and  fancied  that  she  most  be  chilled  by  tho 

THE  VIGIL  37t 

early  moMung  air.  •  I  beseech  you,  Marie,  cover  yourself  up,' 
said  he.  'Do  you  want  to  suffer  still  more?'  And 
thereupon  he  drew  up  the  shawl  which  had  slipped  off  h6r, 
and  endeavoured  to  fasten  it  about  her  neck.  '  You  are  cold, 
Marie,'  he  added ;  '  your  hands  are  like  ice.' 

She  did  not  answer,  she  was  still  in  the  same  attitude  as 
when  he  had  left  her  a  couple  of  hours  previously.  With  her 
elbows  resting  on  the  edges  of  her  box,  she  kept  herself  raised, 
her  soul  still  lifted  tov.'ards  the  Blessed  Virgin  and  her  face 
transfigured,  beaming  with  a  celestial  joy.  Her  lips  moved, 
though  no  sound  came  from  them.  Perhapis  she  was  still  carry- 
ing on  some  mysterious  conversation  in  the  world  of  enchant- 
ments, dreaming  wide  awake,  as  she  had  been  doing  ever  since 
he  had  placed  her  there.  He  spoke  to  her  again,  but  still  she 
answered  not.  At  last,  however,  of  her  own  accord,  she  mur- 
mured in  a  far-away  voice  :  '  Oh  !  I  am  so  happy,  Pierre  !  I 
have  seen  her ;  I  prayed  to  her  for  you,  and  she  smiled  at  me, 
slightly  nodding  her  head  to  let  me  know  that  she  heard  me 
and  would  grant  my  prayers.  And  though  she  did  not  speak 
to  me,  Pierre,  I  understood  what  she  wished  me  to  know. 
'Tis  to-day,  at  four  o'clock  in  the  afternoon,  when  the  Blessed 
Sacrament  passes  by,  that  I  shall  be  cured ! ' 

He  listened  to  her  in  deep  agitation.  Had  she  been  sleep- 
ing with  her  eyes  wide  open  ?  Was  it  in  a  dream  that  she  had 
seen  the  marble  figure  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  bend  its  head  and 
smile  ?  A  great  tremor  passed  through  him  at  the  thought 
that  this  pure  child  had  prayed  for  him.  And  he  walked  up 
to  the  railing,  and  dropped  upon  his  knees,  stammering:  '  O 
Marie !  0  Marie ! '  without  knowing  whether  this  heart-cry 
were  intended  for  the  Virgin  or  for  the  beloved  friend  of  his 
childhood.  And  he  remained  there,  utterly  overwhelmed, 
waiting  for  grace  to  come  to  him. 

Endless  minutes  went  by.  This  was  indeed  the  superhuman 
effort,  the  waiting  for  the  miracle  which  he  had  come  to  seek 
for  himself,  the  sudden  revelation,  the  thunderclap  which  was 
to  sweep  away  his  unbelief  and  restore  him,  rejuvenated  and 
triumphant,  to  the  faith  of  the  simple-minded.  He  sur- 
rendered himself,  he  wished  that  some  mighty  power  might 
ravage  his  being  and  transform  it.  Bnt,  even  as  before  whilst 
saying  his  mass,  he  heard  naught  within  him  but  an  endless 
silence,  felt  nothing  but  a  boundless  vacuum.  There  was 
no  divine  intervention,  his  despairing  heart  almost  seemed  to 
cease  beating.    And  although  he  strove  to  pray,  to  fix  hia 


mind  wholly  upon  that  powerful  Virgin,  so  compassionate 
to  poor  humanity,  his  thoughts  none  the  less  wandered,  won 
back  by  the  outside  world,  and  again  turning  to  puerile  trifles. 
Within  the  Grotto,  on  the  other  side  of  the  railing,  he  had 
once  more  caught  sight  of  Baron  Suire,  still  asleep,  stiU  con- 
tinuing his  pleasant  nap  with  his  hands  clasped  in  front  of  him. 
Other  things  also  attracted  his  attention :  the  flowers  deposited 
at  the  feet  of  the  Virgin,  the  letters  cast  there  as  though  into 
a  heavenly  letter-box,  the  deHcate  lace-Mke  work  of  wax  which 
remained  erect  round  the  flames  of  the  larger  tapers,  looking 
like  some  rich  silver  ornamentation.  Then,  without  any 
apparent  reason,  his  thoughts  flew  away  to  the  days  of  his 
childhood,  and  his  brother  Guillaume's  face  rose  before  him 
with  extreme  distinctness.  He  had  not  seen  him  since  their 
mother's  death.  He  merely  knew  that  he  led  a  very  secluded 
life,  occupying  himself  with  scientific  matters,  in  a  httle  house 
in  which  he  had  buried  himself  with  a  mistress  and  two  big 
dogs ;  and  he  would  have  known  nothing  more  about  him,  but 
for  having  recently  read  his  name  in  a  newspaper  in  connection 
with  some  revolutionary  attempt.  It  was  stated  that  he  was 
passionately  devoting  lumself  to  the  study  of  explosives,  and 
in  constant  intercourse  with  the  leaders  of  the  most  advanced 
parties.  Why,  however,  should  Guillaume  appear  to  him  in 
this  wise,  in  this  ecstatic  spot,  amidst  the  mystical  light  of  the 
tapers,  appear  to  him,  moreover,  such  as  he  had  formerly  known 
him,  so  good,  affectionate,  and  brotherly,  overflowing  with 
charity  for  every  affliction  1  The  thought  haunted  him  for  a 
moment,  and  fiUed  him  with  painful  regret  for  that  brother- 
liness  now  dead  and  gone.  Then,  with  hardly  a  moment's 
pause,  his  mind  reverted  to  himself,  and  he  realised  that  he 
might  stubbornly  remain  there  for  hours  without  regaining 
faith.  Nevertheless,  he  felt  a  sort  of  tremor  pass  through 
him,  a  final  hope,  a  feeling  that  if  the  Blessed  Virgin  shoidd 
perform  the  great  miracle  of  curing  Marie,  he  would  at  last 
believe.  It  was  like  a  final  delay  which  he  allowed  himself, 
an  appointment  vrith  faith  for  that  very  day,  at  four  o'clock 
in  the  afternoon,  when  according  to  what  the  girl  had  told 
him  the  Blessed  Sacrament  would  pass  by.  And  at  this 
thought  his  anguish  at  once  ceased,  he  remained  kneeling, 
worn  out  with  fatigue  and  overcome  by  invincible  drowsiness. 
The  hours  passed  by,  the  resplendent  illumination  of  the 
Grotto  was  still  projected  into  the  night,  its  reflection  stretch- 
ing to  the  neighbouring  hill-sides  and  whitening  the  walls  of 


the  convents  there.  However,  Pierre  noticed  it  grow  paler 
and  paler,  which  surprised  him,  and  he  roused  himself,  feeling 
thoroughly  chilled ;  it  was  the  day  breaking,  beneath  a  leaden 
sky  overcast  with  clouds.  He  perceived  that  one  of  those 
storms,  so  sudden  in  mountainous  regions,  was  rapidly  rising 
from  the  south.  The  thunder  could  abeady  be  heard 
rumbling  in  the  distance,  whilst  gusts  of  wind  swept  along 
the  roads.  Perhaps  he  also  had  been  sleeping,  for  he  no 
longer  beheld  Baron  Suire,  whose  departure  he  did  not  remem- 
ber having  witnessed.  There  were  scarcely  ten  persons  left 
before  the  Grotto,  though  among  them  he  again  recognised 
Madame  Maze  with  her  face  hidden  in  her  hands.  However, 
when  she  noticed  that  it  was  daylight  and  that  she  could  be 
seen,  she  rose  up,  and  vanished  at  a  turn  of  the  narrow  path 
leading  to  the  convent  of  the  Blue  Sisters. 

Feeling  anxious,  Pierre  went  up  to  Marie  to  tell  her  she 
must  not  remain  there  any  longer,  unless  she  wished  to  get 
wet  through.    '  I  will  take  you  back  to  the  Hospital,'  said  he. 

She  refused  and  then  entreated  :  '  No,  no  1  I  am  waiting 
for  mass  ;  I  promised  to  communicate  here.  Don't  trouble 
about  me,  return  to  the  hotel  at  once  and  go  to  bed,  I  implore 
you.  You  know  very  well  that  covered  vehicles  are  sent  here 
for  the  sick  whenever  it  rains.' 

And  she  persisted  in  refusing  to  leave,  whilst  on  his  side 
he  kept  on  repeating  that  he  did  not  wish  to  go  to  bed.  A 
mass,  it  should  be  mentioned,  was  said  at  the  Grotto  early 
every  morning,  and  it  was  a  divine  joy  for  the  pilgrims  to  be 
able  to  communicate,  amidst  the  glory  of  the  rising  sun,  after 
a  long  night  of  ecstasy.  And  now,  just  as  some  large  drops  of 
rain  were  beginning  to  fall,  there  came  the  priest,  wearing  a 
chasuble  and  accompanied  by  two  acolytes,  one  of  whom, 
in  order  to  protect  the  chahce,  held  a  large  white  silk  umbrella, 
embroidered  with  gold,  over  him. 

Pierre,  after  pushing  Marie's  little  conveyance  close  to 
the  railing,  so  that  the  girl  might  be  sheltered  by  the  over- 
hanging rock,  under  which  the  few  other  worshippers  had 
also  sought  refuge,  had  just  seen  her  receive  the  sacrament 
with  ardent  fervour,  when  his  attention  was  attracted  by  a 
pitiful  spectacle  which  quite  wrung  his  heart. 

Beneath  a  dense,  heavy  deluge  of  rain,  he  caught  sight  of 
Madame  Vincent,  still  with  that  precious,  woeful  burden,  her 
little  Eose,  whom  with  outstretched  arms  she  was  offering  to 
Jhe  Blessed  Virgin,    Uiiabl9  to  §tay  any  longer  at  the  shelter- 


house  owing  to  the  complaints  caused  by  the  child's  constant 
moaning,  she  had  carried  her  off  into  the  night,  and  during 
two  hours  had  roamed  about  in  the  darkness,  lost,  distracted, 
bearing  this  poor  flesh  of  her  flesh,  which  she  pressed  to  her 
bosom,  unable  to  give  it  any  relief.  She  knew  not  what  road 
she  had  taken,  beneath  what  trees  she  had  strayed,  so  absorbed 
had  she  been  in  her  revolt  against  the  unjust  sufferings  which 
had  so  sorely  stricken  this  poor  Uttle  being,  so  feeble  and  so 
pure,  and  as  yet  quite  incapable  of  sin.  Was  it  not  abominable 
that  the  grip  of  disease  should  for  weeks  have  been  incessantly 
torturing  her  child,  whose  cry  she  knew  not  how  to  quiet  ? 
She  carried  her  about,  rooking  her  in  her  arms  as  she  went 
wildly  along  the  paths,  obstinately  hoping  that  she  would 
at  last  get  her  to  sleep,  and  so  hush  that  wail  which  was  rend- 
ing her  heart.  And,  suddenly,  utterly  worn-out,  sharing  each 
of  her  daughter's  death-pangs,  she  found  herself  opposite  the 
Grotto,  at  the  feet  of  the  miracle-working  Virgin,  she  who 
iorgave  and  who  healed. 

'  0  Virgin,  Mother  most  admirable,  heal  her  1  0  Virgin, 
Mother  of  Divine  Grace,  heal  her ! ' 

She  had  fallen  on  her  knees,  and  with  quivering,  out- 
stretched arms  was  stiU.  offering  her  expiring  daughter, -in  a 
paroxysm  of  hope  and  desire  which  seemed  to  raise  her  from 
the  ground.  And  the  rain,  which  she  never  noticed,  beat 
down  behind  her  with  the  fury  of  an  escaped .  torrent,  whilst 
violent  claps  of  thunder  shook  the  mountains.  For  one 
moment  she  thought  her  prayer  was  granted,  for  Eose  had 
sUghtly  quivered  as  though  visited  by  the  archangel,  her  face 
becoming  quite  white,  her  eyes  and  mouth  opening  wide ;  and 
with  one  last  Uttle  gasp  she  ceased  her  cry. 

'  0  Virgin,  Mother  of  Our  Eedeemer,  heal  her  I  0  Virgin, 
All-powerful  Mother,  heal  her ! ' 

But  the  poor  woman  felt  her  child  become  even  lighter  in 
her  extended  arms.  And  now  she  became  afraid  at  no  longer 
hearing  her  moan,  at  seeing  her  so  white,  with  staring  eyes 
and  open  mouth,  without  a  ^ign  of  life.  How  was  it  that  she 
did  not  smUe  if  she  were  cured?  Suddenly  a  loud  heart- 
rending cry  rang  out,  the  cry  of  the  mother,  surpassing  even 
the  din  of  the  thunder  in  the  storm,  whose  violence  was 
increasing.  Her  child  was  dead.  And  she  rose  up  erect, 
turned  her  back  on  that  deaf  Virgin  who  let  little  children  die, 
and  started  off  like  a  madwoman  beneath  the  lashing  down- 
pour, going  straight  before  her  without  knowing  whither,  and 

THE  ■VIGIL  27^ 

still  and  ever  carrying  and  nursing  that  poor  little  body  which 
Bhe  had  held  in  her  arms  during  so  many  days  and  nights. 
A  thunderboHj  fell,  shivering  one  of  the  neighbouring  trees,  as 
though  with  the  stroke  of  a  giant  axe,  amidst  a  great  crash 
of  twisted  and  broken  branches. 

Pierre  had  rushed  after  Madame  Vincent,  eager  to  guide 
and  help  her.  But  he  was  unable  to  follow  her,  for  he  at 
once  lost  sight  of  her^  behind  the  blurring  curtain  of  rain. 
When  he  returned,  the  mass  was  drawing  to  an  end,  and,  as 
soon  as  the  rain  fell  less  violently,  the  officiating  .priest  went 
off  under  the  white  silk  umbrella  embroidered  with  gold. 
Meantime  a  kind  of  omnibus  awaited  the  few  patients  to  take 
them  back  to  the  Hospital. 

Marie  pressed  Pierre's  hands.  '  Oh  !  how  happy  I  am ! ' 
she  said.  '  Do  not  come  for  me  before  three  o'clock  this  after- 

On  being  left  amidst  the  rain,  which  had  now  become 
an  obstinate  fine  drizzle,  Pierre  re-entered  the  Grotto  and 
seated  himself  on  the  bench  near  the  spring.  He  would  liot 
go  to  bed,  for  in  spite  of  his  ■sfeariness  he  dreaded  sleep  in 
the  state  of  nervous  excitement  in  which  he  had  been  plunged 
ever  since  the  day  before.  Little  Eose's  death  had  increased 
his  fever ;  he  could  not  banish  from  his  mind  the  thoright  of 
that  broken-hearted  mother,  wandering  along  the  muddy 
paths  with  the  dead  body  of  her  chUd.  What  could  be  the 
reasons  which  influenced  the  Virgin  ?  He  was  amazed  that 
she  could  make  a  choice.  Divine  Mother  as  she  was,  he 
wondered  how  her  heart  could  decide  upon  healing  only  ten 
out  of  a  hundred  sufferers — that  ten  per  cent,  of  miracles 
■which  Doctor  Bonamy  liad  proved  by  statistics.  He,  Pierre, 
had  already  asked  himself  the  day  before  which  ones  he  would 
have  chosen  had  he  possessed  the  power  of  saving  ten.  A 
terrible  power  in  all  truth,  a  formidable  selection,  which  he 
would  never  have  had  the  courage  to  make.  Why  this  one, 
jand  not  that  other  ?  Where  was  the  justice,  where  the  com- 
passion ?  To  be  all-powerful  and  heal  every  one  of  them;  was 
not  that  the  desire  which  rose  from  each  heart  ?  And  the 
Virgin  seemed  to  him  to  be  cruel,  badly  informed,  as  harsh 
and  indifferent  as  even  impassible  nature,  distributing  life  and 
death  at  random,  or  in  accordance  with  laws  which  mankind 
knew  nothing  of. 

The  rain  was  at  last  leaving  off,  and  Pierre  had  been 
there  a  couple  of  hours  when  he  felt  that  his  feet  were  damp. 

T  2 


He  looked  down,  and  was  greatly  surprised,  for  the  spring  was 
overflowing  through  the  gratings.  The  soil  of  the  Grotto  was 
already  covered ;  whilst  outside  a  sheet  of  water  was  flowing 
under  the  benches,  as  far  as  the  parapet  against  the  Gave< 
The  late  storms  had  swollen  the  waters  in  the  neighbourhood, 
Pierre  thereupon  reflected  that  this  spring,  in  spite  of  its 
miraculous  origin,  was  subject  to  the  laws  that  governed  other 
springs,  for  it  certainly  communicated  with  some  natural 
reservoirs,  wherein  the  rain  penetrated  and  accumulated. 
And  then,  to  keep  his  ankles  diy,  he  left  the  place. 


PiEEEE  walked  along  thirsting  for  fresh  air,  his  head  so  heavy 
that  he  took  off  his  hat  to  relieve  his  burning  brow.  Despite 
all  the  fatigue  of  that  terrible  night  of  vigil,  he  did  not  think 
of  sleeping.  He  was  kept  erect  by  that  rebellion  of  his  whole 
being  which  he  could  not  quiet.  Eight  o'clock  was  striking, 
and  he  walked  at  random  under  the  glorious  morning  sun, 
now  shining  forth  in  a  spotless  sky,  which  the  storm  seemed 
to  have  cleansed  of  all  the  Sunday  dust. 

AU  at  once,  however,  he  raised  his  head,  anxious  to  know 
where  he  was ;  and  he  was  quite  astonished,  for  he  found  that 
he  had  already  covered  a  deal  of  ground,  and  was  now  below 
the  station,  near  the  municipal  hospital.  He  was  hesitating 
at  a  point  where  the  road  forked,  not  knowing  which  direction 
to  take,  when  a  friendly  hand  was  laid  on  his  shoulder,  and  a 
voice  inquired:  'Where  are  you  going  at  this  early 

It  was  Doctor  Chassaigne  who  addressed  him,  drawing  up 
his  lofty  figure,  clad  in  black  from  head  to  foot.  '  Have  you 
lost  yourself  ?  '  he  added ;  '  do  you  want  to  know  your  way  ? ' 

'  No,  thanks,  no,'  replied  Pierre,  somewhat  disturbed.  '  I 
spent  the  night  at  the  Grotto  with  that  young  patient  to 
whom  I  am  so  much  attached,  and  my  heart  was  so  upset 
that  I  have  been  walking  about  in  the  hope  it  would  do  me 
good,  before  returning  to  the  hotel  to  take  a  little  sleep.' 

The  doctor  continued  looking  at  him,  clearly  detecting  the 
frightful  struggle  which  was  raging  within  iiim,  the  despair 
which  he  felt  at  being  unable  to  nink  asleep  in  faith,  the 


suffering  which  the  futility  of  all  his  efforts  brought  him. 
'  Ah,  my  poor  child ! '  murmured  M.  Chassaigne ;  and,  in  a 
fatherly  way,  he  added :  '  Well,  since  you  are  walking,  suppose 
we  take  a  walk  together  ?  I  was  just  going  down  yonder,  to 
the  bank  of  the  Gave.  Come  along,  and  on  our  way  back  you 
will  see  what  a  lovely  view  we  shall  have.' 

For  his  part,  the  doctor  took  a  walk  of  a  couple  of  hours' 
duration  each  morning,  ever  alone,  seeking,  as  it  were,  to  tire 
and  exhaust  his  grief.  First  of  all,  as  soon  as  he  had  risen,  he 
repaired  to  the  cemetery,  and  knelt  on  the  tomb  of  his  wife 
and  daughter,  which,  at  all  seasons,  he  decked  with  flowers. 
And  afterwards  he  would  roam  along  the  roads,  with  tearful 
eyes,  never  returning  home  until  fatigue  compelled  him. 

With  a  wave  of  the  hand,  Pierre  accepted  his  proposal,  and 
in  perfect  silence  they  went,  side  by  side,  down  the  sloping 
road.  They  remained  for  a  long  time  without  speaking ;  the 
doctor  seemed  more  overcome  than  was  his  wont  that  morn- 
ing ;  it  was  as  though  his  chat  with  his  dear  lost  ones  had 
made  his  heart  bleed  yet  more  copiously.  He  walked  along 
with  his  head  bowed ;  his  face,  round  which  his  white  hair 
streamed,  was  very  pale,  and  tears  still  blurred  his  eyes. 
And  yet  it  was  so  pleasant,  so  warm  in  the  sunlight  on  that 
•lovely  morning.  The  road  now  followed  the  Gave  on  its 
right  bank,  on  the  other  side  of  the  new  town ;  and  you  could 
see  the  gardens,  the  iuchned  ways,  and  the  Basilica.  And,  all 
at  once,  the  Grotto  appeared,  with  the  everlasting  flare  of  its 
tapers,  now  paling  in  the  broad  light. 

Doctor  Chassaigne,  who  bad  turned  his  head,  made  the  sign 
of  the  cross,  which  Pierre  did  not  at  first  understand.  And 
when,  in  his  turn,  he  had  perceived  the  Grotto,  he  glanced  in 
surprise  at  his  old  firiend,  and  once  more  relapsed  into  the 
astonishment  which  had  come  over  him  a  couple  of  days 
previously  on  finding  this  man  of  science,  this  whilom  atheist 
and  materialist,  so  overwhelmed  by  grief  that  he  was  now  a 
believer,  longing  for  the  one  delight  of  meeting  his  dear  ones 
in  another  life.  His  heart  had  swept  his  reason  away  ;  old  and 
lonely  as  he  was,  it  was  only  the  illusion  that  he  would  live  once 
more  in  paradise,  where  loving  souls  meet  again,  that  prolonged 
his  life  on  earth.  This  thought  increased  the  young  priest's 
discomfort.  Must  he  also  wait  until  he  had  grown  old  and 
endured  equal  sufferings  in  order  to  find  a  refuge  in  faith  ? 

Still  walking  beside  the  Gave,  leaving  the  town  farther 
and  farther  behind  them,  they  were  lulled  as  it  were  by  the 


noise  of  those  clear  waters  rolling  over  the  pebbles,  between 
banks  shaded  by  trees.  And  they  still  remained  silent^  walk- 
ing on  with  an  equal  step,  each,  on  his  own  side,  absorbed  in 
bis  sorrows. 

'  And  Bernadette,'  Pierre  suddenly  inquired ; '  did  yon  know 

The  doctor  raised  his  head.  'Bernadette?  Yes,  yes,* 
said  he.  '  I  saw  her  onee — afterwards.'  He  relapsed  into 
silence  for  a  mpment,  and  then  began  chatting :  '  In  1858, 
you  know,  at  the  time  of  the  apparitions,  I  was  thirty  years 
of  age.  I  was  in  Paris,  still  young  in  my  profession,  and 
opposed  to  all  supernatural  notions,  so  that  I  had  no  idea  of 
returning  to  my  native  mountains  to  see  a  girl  suffering  from 
hallucinations.  Five  or  six  years  later,  however,  some  time 
about  1864,  I  passed  through  Lourdes,  and  was  inquisitive 
enough  to  pay  Bernadette  a  visit.  She  was  then  still  at.  the 
asylum  with  the  Sisters  of  Nevers.' 

Pierre  remembered  that  one  of  the  reasons  of  his  journey 
had  been  his  desire  to  complete  his  inquiry  respecting  Ber- 
nadettej.  And  who  could  tell  if  grace  might  not  come  to  him 
from  t^t  humble,  lovable  girl,  on  the  day  when  he  should 
be  convinced  that  she  had  indeed  fuMUed  a  mission  of 
divine  love  and  forgiveness  ? '  For  this  consummation  to 
ensue  it  would  perhaps  suffice  that  he  should  know  her  better 
and.le^rn  to  feel  that  she  was  really  the  saint,  the  chosen  one, 
as  others  believed  her  to  have  been. 

'  Tell  me  about  her,  I  pray  you,'  he  said  ;  '  tell  me  all  you 
know  of  her.' 

A  faint  smile  curved  the  doctor's  lips.  He  understood,  and 
would  have  greatly  liked  to  calm  and  comfort  the  young  priest 
whose  soul  was  so  grievously  tortured  by  doubt.  '  Oh  1  will- 
ingly, my  poor  child  1 '  he  answered.  '  I  should  be  so  happy 
to  help  you  on  the  path  to  light.  You  do  well  to  love  Berna- 
dette—that  may  save  you ;  for  since  all  those  old-time  things 
I  have  deeply  reflected  on  her  case,  and  I  declare  to  you  that 
I  never  met  a  more  charming  creature,  or  one  vrith  a  better 

Then,  to  the  slow  rhythm  of  their  footsteps  along  the 
well-kept,  sunlit  road,  in  the  delightful  freshness  of  morning, 
the  doctor  began  to  relate  his  visit  to  Bernadette  in  1864. 
She  had  then  just  attained  her  twentieth  birthday,  the  appari- 
tions had  taken  place  six  years  previously,  and  she  had  asto- 
nished him  by  her  candid  and  sensible  air,  her  perfect  modesty. 


The  Sisters  of  Nevers,  who  had  taught  her  to  read,  kept 
her  ■with  them  at  the  asylum  in  order  to  shield  her  from 
public  inquisitiveness.  She  found  an  occupation  there,  helping 
them  in  sundry  petty  duties ;  but  she  was  very  often  taken  ill, 
ind  would  spend  weeks  at  a  time  in  her  bed.  The  doctor 
had  been  particularly  struck  by  her  beautiful  eyes,  pure,  can- 
did, and  frank  like  those  of  a  child.  The  rest  of  her  face,  said 
he,  had  become  somewhat  spoilt ;  her  complexion  was  losing 
its  clearness,  her  features  had  grown  less  delicate,  and  her 
general  appearance  was  that  of  an  ordinary  servant-girl, 
short,  puny  and  unobtrusive.  Her  piety  was  still  keen,  but 
she  had  not  seemed  to  him  to  be  the  ecstatical,  excitable 
creature  that  many  might  have  supposed;  indeed,  she 
appeared  to  have  a  rather  positive  mind  which  did  not  indulge 
in  flights  of  fancy ;  and  she  invariably  had  some  httle  piece 
of  needlework,  some  knitting,  some  embroidery  in  her  hand. 
In  a  word,  she  appeared  to  have  entered  the  common  path, 
and  in  nowise  resembled  the  intensely  passionate  female 
worshippers  of  the  Christr  She  had  no  further  visions,  and 
never  of  her  own  accord  spoke  of  the  eighteen  apparitions 
which  had  decided  her  Ufe.  To  learn  anything  it  was  neces- 
sary to  interrogate  her,  to  address  precise  questions  to  her. 
These  she  would  briefly  answer,  and  then  seek  to  change  the 
conversation,  as  though  she  did  not  like  to  talk  of  such  mys- 
terious things.  If,  wishing  to  probe  the  matter  further,  you 
asked  her  the  nature  of  the  three  secrets  which  the  Virgin  had 
confided  to  her,  she  would  remain  silent,  simply  averting  her 
eyes.  And  it  was  impossible  to  make  her  contradict  herself ; 
the  particulars  she  gave  invariably  agreed  with  her  original 
narrative,  and,  indeed,  she  always  seemed  to  repeat  the  same 
words,  with  the  same  inflections  of  the  voice. 

'  I  had  her  in  hand  during  the  whole  of  one  afternoon,' 
continued  Doctor  Chassaigne,  '  and  there  was  not  the  variation 
of  a  syllable  in  her  story.  It  was  disconcerting.  Still,  I  am 
prepared  to  swear  that  she  was  not  lying,  that  she  never  lied, 
that,  she  was  altogether  incapable  of  falsehood.' 

Pierre  boldly  ventured  to  discuss  this  point.  '  But  won't 
you  admit,  doctor,  the  possibihty  of  some  disorder  of  the  wiU  ?  ' 
he  asked.  '  Has  it  not  been  proved,  is  it  not  admitted  nowa- 
days, that  when  certain  degenerate  creatures  with  childish 
minds  fall  into  an  hallucination,  a  fancy  of  some  kind  or  other, 
they  are  often  unable  to  free  themselves  from  it,  especially 
when  they  remain  ia  the  same  environment  in  which  the 


phenomenon  occurred  ?  Cloistered,  living  alone  with  her  fixecl 
idea,  Bemadette,  naturally  enough,  obstinately  clung  to  it.' 

The  doctor's  faint  smile  returned  to  his  lips,  and  vaguely 
waving  his  arm,  he  replied :  '  Ah !  my  child,  you  ask  me  too 
much !  You  know  very  well  that  I  am  now  only  a  poor  old 
man,  who  prides  himself  but  Uttle  on  his  science,  and  no  longer 
claims  to  be  able  to  explain  anything.  However,  I  do  of 
course  know  of  that  famous  medical-school  example  of  the 
young  girl  who  allowed  herself  to  waste  away  with  hunger  at 
home,  because  she  imagined  that  she  was  suffering  from  a 
serious  complaint  of  the  digestive  organs,  but  who  nevertheless 
began  to  eat  when  she  was  taken  elsewhere^  However, 
that  is  but  one  circimistance,  and  there  are  so  many  contra- 
dictory cases.' 

For  a  moment  they  became  silent,  and  only  the  rhythmical 
sound  of  their  steps  was  heard  along  the  road.  Then  the 
doctor  resumed  :  '  Moreover,  it  is  quite  true  that  Bemadette 
shunned  the  world,  and  was  only  happy  in  her  soUtary  corner. 
She  was  never  known  to  have  a  single  intimate  female  Mend, 
any  particular  human  love  for  anybody.  She  was  kind  and 
gentle  towards  all,  but  it  wa'i  only  for  children  that  she 
showed  any  lively  affection.  And  as,  after  all,  the  medical 
man  is  not  quite  dead  within  me,  I  will  confess  to  you  that 
I  have  sometimes  wondered  if  she  remained  as  pure  in  mind, 
as,  most  undoubtedly,  she  did  remain  in  body.  However,  I 
think  it  quite  possible,  given  her  sluggish,  poor-blooded  tempera- 
ment, not  to  speak  of  the  innocent  sphere  in  which  she  grew 
up,  first  BartrSs,  and  then  the  convent.  StUI,  a  doubt  came  to 
me  when  I  heard  of  the  tender  interest  which  she  took  in  the 
orphan  asylum  built  by  the  Sisters  of  Nevers,  farther  along 
this  very  road.  Poor  little  girls  are  received  into  it,  and 
shielded  from  the  perils  of  the  highways.  And  if  Bemadette 
wished  it  to  be  extremely  large,  so  as  to  lodge  all  the  Uttle  lambs 
in  danger,  was  it  not  because  she  herself  remembered  having 
roamed  the  roads  with  bare  feet,  and  still  trembled  at  the 
idea  of  what  might  have  become  of  her  but  for  the  help  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin  ? ' 

Then,  resuming  his  narrative,  he  went  on  telling  Pierre  of 
the  crowds  thatflocked  to  see  Bemadette  and  pay  her  reverence 
in  her  asylum  at  Lourdes.  This  had  proved  a  source  of  con- 
siderable fatigue  to  her.  Not  a  day  went  by  vrithout  a  stream 
of  visitors  appearing  before  her.  They  came  from  all  parta 
of  France,  some  even  from  abroad ;  and  it  soon  becamo 


neeessafy  to  refuse  the  applications  of  those  who  were  actuated 
by  mere  inqnisitiveness,  and  to  grant  admittance  only  to  the' 
genuine  believers,  the  members  of  the  clergy,  and  the  people 
of  mark  on  whom  the  doors  could  not  well  have  been  shut. . 
A  Sister  was  always  present  to  protect  her  against  the  excessive 
indiscretion  of  some  of  her  visitors,  for  questions  literally 
rained  upon  her,  and  she  often  grew  faint  through  having  to 
repeat  her  story  so  many  times.  Ladies  of  high  position  fell 
on  their  knees,  kissed  her  gown,  and  would  have  hked  to  carry 
a  piece  of  it  away  as  a  relic.  She  also  had  to  defend  her 
chaplet,  which  ia  their  excitement  they  aU.  begged  her  to  sell 
to  them  for  a  fabulous  amount.  One  day  a  certain  marchioness 
endeavoured  to  secure  it  by  giving  her  another  one  which  she 
had  brought,  with  her — a  chaplet  with  a  golden  cross  and 
beads  of  real  pearls. '  Many  hoped  that  she  would  consent  to 
work  a  miracle  in  their  presence ;  children  were  brought  to 
her  ia  order  that  she  might  lay  her  hands  upon  them ;  she 
was  also  consulted  ia  oases  of  illness,  and  attempts  were  made 
to  purchase  her  influence  with  the  Virgia,  Large  sums  were 
offered  to  her.  At  the  slightest  sign,  the  slightest  expression 
of  a  desire  to  be  a  queen,  deckedwithjewels  and  crowned  with 
gold,  she  would  have  been  overwhelmed  with  regal  presents. 
And  while  the  humble  remained  on  their  knees  on  her  threshold, 
the  great  ones  of  the  earth  pressed  round  her,  and  would  have 
counted  it  a  glory  to  act  as  her  escort.  It  was  even  related 
that  one  amongthem,  the  handsomestand  wealthiest  of  princes, 
came  one  clear  sunny  April  day  to  ask  her  hand  ia  marriage ! 
'  But  what  always  struck  and  displeased  me,'  said  Pierre, 
*  was  her  departure  from  Lourdes  when  she  was  two-and- twenty, 
her  sudden  disappearance  and  sequestration  ia  the  convent  of 
Saint  Gildard  at  Nevers,  whence  she  never  emerged.  Didn't 
that  give  a  semblance  of  truth  to  those  spurious  rumours  of 
insanity  which  were  circulated?  Didn't  it  help  people  to 
suppose  that  she  was  being  shut  up,  whisked  away  foj  fear  of 
some  indiscretion  on  her  part,  some  naive  remark  or  other 
which  might  have  revealed  the  secret  of  a  prolonged  fraud  ? 
Indeed,  to  speak  plainly,  I  will  confess  to  you  that  for  my 
own  part  I  still  believe  that  she  was  spirited  away.' 

Doctor  Chassaigne  gently  shook  his  head.  '  No,  no,'  said 
he, '  there  was  no  story  prepared  in  advance  in  this  affair,  no 
big  melodrama  secretly  staged  and  afterwards  performed  by 
more  or  less  miconscious  actors.  The  developments  came  of 
themselves,  by  the  sole  force  of  circumstances ;  and  they 


were  always  very  intricate,  very  difficult  to  analyse.  Moreover, 
it  is  certain  that  it  was  Bemadette  herself  who  wished  to 
leave  Lonrdes.  Those  iacessant  visits  wearied  her,  she  felt 
ill  at  ease  amidst  all  that  noisy  worship^  All  that  &h&  desired 
was  a  dim  nook  where  she  might  live  in  peace,  and,  so  fierce 
was  she  at  times  in  her  disinterestedness,  that  when  money 
was  handed  to  her,  even  with  the  pious  intent  of  having  a  mass 
said  or  a  taper  burnt,  she  would  fling  it  upon  the  floor.  She 
never  accepted  anything  for  herself  or  for  her  family,  which 
remained  in  poverty.  And  with  such  pride  as  she  possessed, 
such  natural  simplicity,  such  a  desire  to  remain  in  the  back- 
ground, one  can  very  weU  understand  that  she  should  have 
wished  to  disappear  and  cloister  herself  in  some  lonely  spot 
so  as  to  prepare  herself  to  make,  a  good  death.  Her  work 
was  accomplished;  she  had  initiated  this  great  movement 
scarcely  knowing  how  or  why;  and  she  could  really  be  of  no 
farther  utility.  Others  were  about  to  conduct  matters  to  an 
issue  and  insure  the  triumph  of  the  Grotto.' 

'  Let  us  admit,  then,  that  she  went  off  of  her  own.  accord,' 
said  Pierre ;  '  still,  what  a  relief  it  must  have  been  for  the 
people  you  speak  of,  who  thenceforth  became  the  real  masters, 
whilst  millions  of  money  were  raining  down  on  Lourdes  from 
the  whole  world.' 

'  Oh  1  certainly ;  I  don't  pretend  that  any  attempt  was 
made  to  .detain  her  here  ! '  exclaimed  the  doctor.  ^Frankly,  I 
even  believe  that  she  was  in  some  degree  urged  into  the 
course  she  took.  She  ended  by  becoming  somewhat  of  an 
incumbrance.  It  was  not  that  any  annoying  revelSitrons 
were  feared  from  her ;  but  remember  that  with,  her  extreme 
timidity  and  frequent  illnesses  she  was  scarcely  ornamental. 
Besides,  however  small  the  room  which  she  took  up  at  Lourdies, 
however  obedient  she  showed  herself,  she  was  none  the  less  a 
power,  and  attracted  the  multitude,  which  made  her,  so  to.8ay, 
a  competitor  of  the  Grotto.  For  the  Grotto  to  remain  alone, 
resplendent  in  its  glory,  it  was  advisable  that  Bemadette 
should  withdraw  into  the  background,  become  as  it  were  a 
simple  legend.  Such,  indeed,  must  have  been  the  reasons 
which  induced  Monseigneur  Laurence,  the  Bishop  oi'Tarbes, 
to  hasten  her  departure.  The  only  mistake  that  was  made  was 
in  saying  that  it  was  a  question  of  screening  her  from  the 
raiterprises  of  the  world,  as  though  it  were  feared  that  she 
might  fall  into  the  sin  of  pride,  by  growing  vainr  of  the  saintly 
tame  with  which  the  whole  of  Christendom  re-echoed.    And 


this  was  doing  her  a  grave  injury,  for  she  was  as  incapable  pt 
pride  as  she  was  of  falsehood.  Never,  indeed,  was  there  a; 
more  candid  or  more  modest  child.' 

The  doctor  was  growing  impassioned,  excited.  But  all 
at  once  he  became  calm  again,  and  a  pale  smile  returned  to. 
his  lips.  '  'Tis  true,'  said  he,  'I  love  her;  the  more  I  have 
thought  of  her,  the  more  have  I  learned  to  love  her.  But  you 
must  not  think,  Pierre,  that  I  am  completely  brutified  by 
belief.  If  I  nowadays  acknowledge  the  existence  of  an  unseen 
power^  if  I  feel  a  need  of  believing  in  another,  better,  and 
more  just  life,  I  nevertheless  know  right  well  that  there  are 
men  remaining, in  this  world  of  ours;  and  at  times,  even  when 
they  wear  the  cowl  or  the  cassock,  the  work  they  do  is  vile.' 

There  came  another  interval  of  silence.  Each  was  con- 
tinuing his  dream  apart  from  the  other.  Then  the  doctor, 
resumed :  '  I  will  teU  you  of  a  fancy  which  has  often  haunted 
me.  Suppose  we  admit  that  Bernadette  was  not  the  shy, 
simple  child  we  knew  her  to  be ;  let  us  endow  her  with  a 
spirit  of  intrigue  and  domination,  transform  her  into  a  con- 
queress,  a  leader  of  nations,  and  try  to  picture  what,  in  that 
case,  would  have  happened.  It  is  evident  that  the  Grotto 
would  be  hers,  the  Basilica  also.  We  should  see  her  lording 
it  at  all  the  ceremonies,  under  a  dais,  with  a  gold  mitre  on 
her  head.  She  would  distribute  the  miracles ;  with  a  sovereign 
gesture  her  little  hand  would  lead  the  multitudes  to  heaven. 
All  the  lustre  and  glory  would  come  from  her,  she  being  the 
saint,  the  chosen  one,  the  only  one  that  had  been  privileged 
to  see  the  Divinity  face  to  face.  And,  indeed,  nothmg  would 
seem  more  just,  for  she  would  triumph  after  toiling,  enjoy 
the  fruit  of  her  labour  in  all  glory.  But  you  see,  as  it  happens, 
she  is  defrauded,  robbed.  The  marvellous  harvests  sown  by 
her  are  reaped  by  others.  During  the  twelve  years  which  she 
lived  at  Saint  Gildard,  kneeling  in  the  gloom,  Lourdes  was 
full  of  victors,  priests  in  golden  vestments  chanting  thanks- 
givings, and  blessing  churches  and  monuments  erected  at  a  cost 
of  millions.  She  alone  did  not  behold  the  triumph  of  the  new 
faith,  whose  author  she  had  been.  Yon  say  that  she  dreamt 
it  all.  WeU,  at  all  events,  what  a  beautiful  dream  it  was,  a 
dream  which  has  stirred  the  whole  world,  and  from  which 
she,  dear,  girl,  never  awakened ! ' 

They  halted  and  sat  down  for  a  moment  on  a  rock  beside 
the  road,  before  returning  to  the  town.  In  front  of  them  the 
6ave,  deep  at  this  point  of  its  course,  was  rolling  blue  waters 

.  284  LOVRDES 

tinged  wit^h  dark  moire-like  reflections,  whilst,  farther  on, 
rushing  hurriedly  over  a  bed  of  large  stones,  the  stream 
became  so  much  foam,  a  white  froth,  light  like  snow.  Amidst 
the  gold  raining  from  the  sim,  a  &esh  breeze  came  down  from 
the  mountains. 

Whilst  listening  to  that  story  of  how  Bernadette  had  been 
exploited  and  suppressed,  Pierre  had  simply  found  in  it  all  a 
fresh  motive  for  revolt;  and,  with  his  eyes  fixed  on  the 
ground,  he  began  to  think  of  the  injustice  of  nature,  of.  that 
law  which  wills  that  the  strong  should  devour  the  weak. 
Then,  all  at  once  raising  his  head,  he  inquired  :  '  And  did  you 
also  know  Abb6  Peyramale  ?  ' 

The  doctor's  eyes  brightened  once  more  and  he  eagerly 
replied  :  '  Certainly  I  did !  He  was  an  upright,  energetic  man, 
a  saint,  an  apostle.  He  and  Bernadette  were  the  great 
makers  of  Our  Lady  of  Lourdes.  Like  her,  he  endured 
frightful  sufferings,  and,  like  her,  he  died  from  them.  Those 
who  do  not  know  his  story  can  know  nothing,  understand 
nothing,  of  the  drama  enacted  here.' 

Thereupon  he  related  that  story  at  length.  Abbd  Pey- 
ramale was  the  parish  priest  of  Lourdes  at  the  time  of  the 
apparitions.  A  native  of  the  region,  tall,  broad-shouldered, 
with  a  powerful  leonine  head,  he  was  extremely  intelligent, 
very  honest  and  good-hearted,  though  at  times  violent  and 
domineering.  He  seemed  built  for  combat.  An  enemy  of  all 
pious  exaggerations,  discharging  the  duties  of  his  ministry  in 
a,  broad,  liberal  spirit,  he  regarded  the  apparitions  with  dis- 
trust, when  he  first  heard  of  them,  refused  to  beheve  in 
Bernadette's  stories,  questioned  her,  and  demanded  proofs.  It 
was  only  at  a  later  stage,  when  the  blast  of  faith  became 
irresistible,  upsetting  the  most  rebeUious  minds  and  master- 
ing the  multitude,  that  he  ended,  in  his  turn,  by  bowing  his 
head ;  and  when  he  was^naUy  conquered,  it  was  more  parti- 
cularly by  his  love  for  the  humble  and  the  oppressed,  which  he 
could  not  restrain  when  he  beheld  Bernadette  threatened  with 
imprisonment.  The  civil  authorities  were  persecuting  one  of 
his  fiock ;  at  this  his  shepherd's  heart  awoke,  and,  in  her 
defence,  he  gave  full  rein  to  his  ardent  passion  for  justice. 
Moreover,  the  charm  which  the  child  diffused  had  worked 
upon  him ;  he  felt  her  to  be  so  candid,  so  truthful,  that  he 
began  to  place  a  blind  faith  in  her  and  love  her  even  as 
everybody  else  loved  her.  Moreover,  why  should  he  have  curtly 
dismissed  all  question  of  miracles,  when  miracles  abound  in 


the  pages  of  Holy  Writ?  It  was  not  for  a  minister  of 
religion,  whatever  his  prudence,  to  set  himself  up  as  a  sceptic 
when  entire  populations  were  falling  on  their  knees  and  the, 
Church  seemed  to  be  on  the  eve  of  another  great  triumph. 
Then,  too,  he  had  the  nature  of  one  who  leads  men,  who  stirs 
up  crowds,  who  builds,  and  in  this  affair  he  had  really  found 
his  vocation,  the  vast  field  in  which  he  might  exercise  his 
energy,  the  great  cause  to  which  he  might  wholly  devote 
himself  with  all  his  passionate  ardour  and  determination  to 

From  that  moment,  then,  Abb6  Peyramale  had  but  one 
thought,  to  execute  the  orders  which  the  Virgin  had  com- 
missioned Bemadette  to  transmit  to  him.  He  caused  im- 
provements to  be  carried  out  at  the  Grotto.  A  railing  was 
placed  in  firont  of  it ;  pipes  were  laid  for  the  conveyance  of  the 
water  from  the  source,  and  a  variety  of  work  was  accomplished 
in  order  to  clear  the  approaches.  However,  the  Virgin  had 
particularly  requested  that  a  chapel  might  be  built ;  and  he 
wished  to  have  a  church,  quite  a  triumphal  basilica.  He 
pictured  everything  on  a  grand  scale,  and,  full  of  confidence 
in  the  enthusiastic  help  of  Christendom,  he  worried  the 
architects,  requiring  them  to  design  real  palaces  worthy  of 
the  Queen  pf  Heaven.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  offerings  already 
abounded,  gold  poured  from  the  most  distant  dioceses,  a  rain 
of  gold  destined  to  increase  and  never  end.  Then  came  his 
happy  years :  he  was  to  be  met  among  the  workmen  at  all 
hours,  instilling  activity  into  them  like  the  jovial,  good-natured 
feUow  he  was,  constantly  on  the  point  of  taking  a  pick  or 
trowel  in  hand  himself,  such  was  his  eagerness  to  behold  the 
realisation  of  his  dream.  But  days  of  trial  were  in  store  for 
him  :  he  fell  iU,  and  lay  in  danger  of  death  on  the  fourth  of 
April,  1864,  when  the  first  procession  started  from  his  parish 
church  to  the  Grotto,  a  procession  of  sixty  thousand  pilgrims, 
which  wound  along  the  streets  amidst  an  immense  concourse 
of  spectators. 

On  the  day  when  Abbd  Peyramale  rose  from  his  bed, 
saved,  a  fiirst  time,  from  death,  he  found  himself  despoiled. 
To  second  him  in  his  heavy  task  Monseigneur  Laurence,  the 
Bishop,  had  already  given  him  as  assistant  a  former  episcopal 
secretary.  Father  Sempe,  whom  he  had  appointed  warden  of 
the  Missionaries  of  Garaison,  a  community  founded  by  himself. 
Father  Sempd  was  a  sly,  spare  little  man,  to  all  appearance 
most  disinterested  and  humble,  but  in  reality  consumed  by  all 

286  LOURDES       .^ 

the  thirst  of  ambition.  At  the  outset  he  kept  in  his  place, 
serving  the  priest  of  Lourdes  like  a  faithful  subordinate,  attends 
ing  to  matters  of  all  kinds  in  order  to  lighten  the  other's  work, 
and  acquiring  information  on  every  possible  subject  in  his 
desire  to  render  himself  indispensable.  He  must  soon  have 
realised  what  a  rich  farm  the  Grotto  was  destined  to  become, 
and  what  a  colossal  revenue  might  be  derived  from  it,  if  only 
a  little  skill  were  exercised.  And  thenceforth  he  no  longer 
stirred_  from  the  episcopal  residence,  but  ended  by  acquiring 
great  influence  over  the  calm,  practical  Bishop,  who  was  in 
great  need  of  money  for  the  charities  of  his  diocese.  And 
thus  it  was  that  during  Abb6  Peyramale's  illness  Father 
Semp4  succeeded  in  effecting  a  separation  between  the  parish 
of  Lourdes  and  the  domain  of  the  Grotto,  which  last  he  was 
commissioned  to  manage  at  the  head  of  a  few  Fathers  of 
the  Immaculate  Conception,  over  whom  the  Bishop  placed  him 
as  Father  Superior. 

The  struggle  soon  began,  one  of  those  covert,  desperate, 
mortal  struggles  which  are  waged  under  the  cloak  of  eccle- 
siastical discipline.  There  was  a  pretext  for  rupture  all  ready, 
a  field  of  battle  on  which  the  longer  puise  would  necessarily 
end  by  conquering.  It  was  proposed  to  build  a  new  parish 
church,  larger  and  more  worthy  of  Lourdes  than  the  old  one 
already  in  existence,  which  was  admitted  to  have  become  too 
small  since  the  faithful  had  been  flocking  into  the  town  in 
larger  and  larger  numbers.  Moreover,  it  was  an  old  idea  of 
Abb6  Peyramale,  who  desired  to  carry  out  the  Virgin's  orders 
with  all  possible  precision.  Speaking  of  the  Grotto,  she  had 
said  that  people  would  go  '  thither  in  procession ' ;  and  the 
Abbe  had  always  seen  the  pilgrims  staxt  in  procession  from 
the  town,  whither  they  were  expected  to  return  in  the  same 
fashion,  as  indeed  had  been  the  practice  on  the  first  occasions 
after  the  apparitions.  A  central  point,  a  rallying  spot,  was 
therefore  required,  and  the  Abb6's  dream  was  to  erect  a 
magnificent  church,  a  cathedral  of  gigantic  proportions,  which 
would  accommodate  a  vast  multitude.  Builder  as  he  was  by 
temperament,  impassioned  artisan  working  for  the  glory  of 
Heaven,  he  already  pictured  this  cathedral  springing  fiom  the 
soil,  and  rearing  its  clanging  beKry  in  the  sunlight.  And  it 
was  also  his  own  house  that  he  wished  to  build,-the  edifice 
which  would  be  his  act  of  faith  and  adoration,  the  temple 
where  he  would  be  the  pontiff,  and  triumph  in  company  vrith 
the  sweet  memory  of  Bernadette,  in  full  view  of  the  spot  of 


which  both]  he  ai>d  she  had  been  so  ciaelly  dispossessed. 
Naturally  enough,  bitterly  as  he  felt  that  act  of  spoliation, 
the  building  of  this  new  parish  church  was  in  some  degree  hia 
revenge,  his  share  of  all  the  glory,  besides  being  a  task  which 
would  enable  him  to  utihse  both  his  militant  activity  and  the 
fever  that  had  been  consuming  him  ever  since  he  had  ceased 
going  to  the  Grotto,  by  reason  of  his  soreness  of  heart. 

At  the  outset  of  the  new  enterprise  there  was  again  a  flash 
of  enthus|.asm.  At  the  prospect  of  seeing  all  the'life  and  all 
the  money  flow  into  the  new  city  which  was  springing  from 
the  ground  around  the  Basilica,  the  old  town,  which  felt  itself 
thrust  upon  one  side,  espoused  the  cause  of  its  priest.  The 
municipal  council  voted  a  sum  of  one  hundred  thousand  francs, 
which,  unfortunately,  was  not  to  be  paid  until  the  new  church 
should  be  roofed  in.  Abb6  Peyramale  had  already  accepted 
the  plaps  of  his  architect — ^plans  which,  he  had  insisted,  should 
be  on  ^  grand  scale — and  had  also  treated  with  a  contractor  of 
Char^^es,  who  engaged  to  complete  the  church  in  three  or  four 
years  if  the  promised  supplies  of  funds  should  be  regularly 
forthcoming.  The  Abbd  believed  that  offerings  would  assuredly 
continue  raining  down  from  aU  parts,  and  so  he  launched  into 
this  big  enterprise  without  any  anxiety,  overflowing  with- a 
careless  bravery,  and  f uUy  expecting  that  Heaven  would  no| 
abandon  him  on  the  road.  He  even  fancied  that  he  could  rely 
upon  the  support  of  Monseigneur  Jourda,n,  who  had  now 
succeeded  Monseigneur  Laurence  as  Bishop  of  Tarbes,  for 
this  prelate,  after  blessing  the  foundation  stone  of  the  new 
chni:ch,  had  delivered  an  address  in  which  he  admitted  that  the 
enterprise  was  necessary  and  meritorious.  And  it  seemed,  too, 
as  though  Father  Semp^,  with  his  customary  humility,  Jia4 
bowed  to  the  inevitable  and  accepted  this  vexatious  cornpetitioh,' 
which  would  compel  him  to  relinquish  a  share  of  the  plunder ; 
for  he  now  pretended  to  devote  himself  entirely  to  the  manage- 
ment of  the  Grotto,  and  even  allowed  a  collection-box  for 
contributions  to  the  building  of  the  new  parish  church  to  be 
placed  inside  the  Basihca. 

Then,  however,  the  secret,  rageful  struggle  began  afresh. 
Abb6  Peyramale,  who  was  a  wretched  manager,  exulted  on 
seeing  his  new  church  so  rapidly  take  shape.  The  work  was 
being  carried  on  at  a  fast  pace,  and  he  troubled  about  nothing 
else,  being  stiU  under  the  delusion  that  the  Blessed  Virgin 
would  find  whatever  money  might  be  needed.  Thus  he  was 
quite  stupefied  when  he  at  last  perceived  that  the  offerings 


were  falling  off,  that  the  money  of  the  faithful  no  longer 
reached  him,  as  though,  indeed,  someone  had  secretly  diverted 
its  flow.  And  eventually  the  day  came  when  he  was  vmable 
to  make  the  stipulated  payments.  In  all  this  there  bad 
been  so  much  skilfully  combined  strangulation,  of  which  he 
only  became  aware  later  on.  Father  Semp^,  however,  had 
once  more  prevailed  on  the  Bishop  to  grant  his  favour 
exclusively  to  the  Grotto.  There  was  even  a  talk  of  some 
confidential  circulars  distributed  through  the  various  dioceses, 
so  that  the  many  sums  of  money  offered  by  the  faithful  should 
no  longer  be  sent  to  the  parish.  The  voracious,  insatiable 
Grotto  was  bent  upon  securing  everything,  and  to  such  a  point 
were  things  carried  that  five  hundred  franc  notes  slipped  into 
the  collection-box  at  the  Basilica  were  kept  back ;  the  box  was 
rifled  and  the  parish  robbed.  Abbd  Feyramale,  however,  in 
his  passion  for  the  rising  church,  his  child,  continued  fighting 
most  desperately,  ready  if  need  were  to  give  his  blood.  He 
had  at  first  treated  with  the  contractor  in  the  name  of  the 
vestry ;  then,  when  he  was  at  a  loss  how  to  pay,  he  treated  in 
his  own  name.  His  life  was  bound  up  in  the  enterprise,  he 
wore  himself  out  in  the  heroic  efforts  which  he  made.  Of  the 
four  hundred  thousand  francs  that  he  had  promised,  he  had 
only  been  able  to  pay  two  hundred  thousand;  and  the 
municipal  council  still  obstinately  refused  to  hand  over  the 
hundred  thousand  francs  which  it  had  voted,  until  the  new 
church  should  be  covered  in.  This  was  acting  against  the 
town's  real  interests.  However,  it  was  said  that  Father  Semp6 
was  trying  to  bring  influence  to  bear  on  the  contractor.  And, 
all  at  once,  the  work  was  stopped. 

From  that  moment  the  death  agony  began.  Wounded  in  the 
heart,  the  Abbe  Peyramale,  the  broad-shouldered  mountaineer 
with  the  leonine  face,  staggered  and  fell  like  an  oak  struck 
down  by  a  thunderbolt.  He  took  to  his  bed,  and  never  left  it 
alive.  Strange  stories  circulated:  it  was  said  that  Father 
Semp6  had  sought  to  secure  admission  to  the  parsonage  under 
some  pious  pretext,  but  in  reality  to  see  it  his  much-dreaded 
adversary  were  really  mortally  stricken;  and  it  was  added, 
that  it  had  been  necessary  to  drive  him  from  the  sick-room, 
where  his  presence  was  an  outrageous  scandal.  Then,  when 
the  unhappy  priest,  vanquished  and  steeped  in  bitterness,  was 
dead,  Father  Semp6  was  seen  triumphing  at  the  funeral,  from 
which  the  others  had  not  dared  to  keep  him  away.  It  was 
affirmed  that  he  openly  displayed  his  abominable  delight,  tha^ 


his  face  was  radiant  that  day  ■vyitli  the  joy  of  victory.  He  was 
at  last  rid  of  the  only  man  'VFho  had  been  an  obstacle  to  his 
designs,  whose  legitimate  authority  he  had  feared.  He  would 
no  longer  be  forced  to  share  anything  with  anybody  now  that 
both  the  founders  of  Our  Ladyof  Lourdes  had  been  suppressed— 
Bernadette  placed  in  a  convent,  and  Abb6  Peyramale  lowered 
into  the  ground.  The  Grotto  was  now  his  own  property,  the 
alms  would  come  to  him  alone,  and  he  could  do  what  he 
pleased  with  the  800,000  francs  or  so  (82,000Z.)  which  were  at  his 
disposal  every  year.  He  would  complete  the  gigantic  works 
destined  to  make  the  Basilica  a  self-supporting  centre,  and  assist 
in  embellishing  the  new  town  in  order  to  increase  the  isolation 
of  the  old  one  and  seclude  it  behind  its  rock,  like  an  insignifi- 
cant parish  submerged  beneath  the  splendour  of  its  all-power- 
ful neighbour.  All  the  money,  all  the  sovereignty,  would  be 
his ;  he  henceforth  would  reign. 

However,  although  the  works  had  been  stopped,  and  the 
new  parish  church  was  slumbering  inside  its  wooden  fence,  it 
was  none  the  less  more  than  half  built.  The  vaulted  aisles 
were  already  erected.  And  the  imperfect  pile  remained  there 
like  a  threat,  for  the  town  might  some  day  attempt  to  finish 
it.  Like  Abbe  Peyramale,  therefore,  it  must  be  killed  for 
good,  turned  into  an  irreparable  ruin.  The  secret  labour 
therefore  continued,  a  work  of  refined  cruelty  and  slow  de- 
struction. To  begin  with,  the.  new  parish  priest,  a  simple- 
miuded  creature,  was  cowed  to  such  a  point  that  he  no  longer 
opened  the  envelopes  containing  remittances  for  the  parish  ; 
all  the  registered  letters  were  at  once  taken  to  the  Fathers. 
Then  the  site  selected  for  the  new  parish  church  was  criti- 
cised, and  the  diocesan  architect  was  induced  to  draw  up  a 
report  stating  that  the  old  church  was  still  in  good  condition 
and  of  ample  size  for  the  requirements  of  the  community. 
Moreover,  influence  was  brought  to  bear  on  the  Bishop,  and 
representations  were  made  to  him  respecting  the  annoying 
features  of  the  pecuniary  difficulties  which  had  arisen  with 
the  contractor.  With  a  little  imagination  poor  Peyramale  was 
transformed  into  a  violent,  obstinate  madman,  through  whose 
midisciplined  zeal  the  Church  had  almost  been  compromised. 
And,  at  last,  the  Bishop,  forgetting  that  he  himself  had 
blessed  the  foundation-stone,  issued  a  pastoral  letter  laying 
the  unfinished  church  under  interdict,  and  prohibiting  all 
religious  services  in  it.  This  was  the  supreme  blow.  Endless 
lawsuits  liad  already  begun ;    tlie  contractor,  who  had  only 


received  two  hundred  thousand  francs  for  the  five  hundred 
thousand  francs'  worth  of  work  which  had  been  executed,  had 
taken  proceedings  against  Abb6  Peyramale's  heir-at-law,  the 
vestry,  and  the  town,  for  the  latter  still  refused  to  pay  over  the 
amount  which  it  had  voted.  At  first  the  Prefect's  Council 
declared  itself  incompetent  to  deal  with  the  case,  and  when 
it  was  sent  back  to  it  by  the  Council  of  State,  it  rendered  a 
judgment  by  which  the  town  was  condemned  to  pay  the 
hiididred  thousand  francs  arid  the  heir-at-law  to  finish  the 
church.  At  the  same  time  the  vestry  was  put  out  of  court. 
However,  there  was  a  fresh  appeal  to  the  Council  of  State, 
which  quashed  this  judgment,  and  condemned  the  vestry,  and,- 
in  default,  the  heir-at-law,  to  pay  the  contractor.  Neither 
party  being  solvent,  matters  remained  in  this  position.  The 
lawsuits  had  lasted  fifteen  years.  The  town  had  now  resig- 
nedly paid  over  the  hundred  thousand  francs,  and  only  two 
hundred  thousand  remained  owing  to  the  contractor.  How- 
ever, the  costs  and  the  accumulated  interest  had  so  increased 
the  amount  of  indebtedness  that  it  had  risen  to  six  hundred 
thousand  francs ;  and  as,  on  the  other  hand,  it  was  estimated 
that  four  hundred  thousand  francs  would  be  required  to  finish 
the  church,  a  miUion  was  needed  to  save  this  young  ruin  from 
certain  destruction.  The  Fathers  of  the  Grotto  were  thence- 
forth able  to  sleep  in  peace ;  they  had  assassinated  the  poor 
church  ;  it  was  as  dead  as  AbbS  Feyramale  himself. 

The  bells  of  the  Basilica  rang  out  triumphantly,  and  Father 
Sempd  reigned  as  a  victor  at  the  conclusion  of  that  great 
struggle,  thaij  dagger  warfare  in  which  not  only  a  man  but 
stones  also,  had  been  done  to  death  in  the  shrouding  gloom  of 
intriguing  sacristies.  And  old  Lourdes,  obstinate  and  unin- 
telligent, paid  a  hard  penalty  for  its  mistake  in  not  giving 
more  support  to  its  minister,  who  had  died  struggling,  killed 
by  his  love  for  his  parish,  for  now  the  new  town  did  not  cease 
to  grow  and  prosper  at  the  expense  of  the  old  one.  All 
the  wealth  flowed  to  the  former :  the  Fathers  of  the  Grotto 
coined  money,  financed  hotels  and  candle  shops,  and  sold  the 
water  of  the  som'ce,  although  a  clause  of  their  agreement  with 
the  munioipahty  expressly  prohibited  them  from  carrying  on 
any  commercial  pursuits. 

The  whole  region  began  to  rot  and  fester  ;  the  triumph  of 
the  Grotto  had  brought  about  such  a  passion  for  lucre,  such  a 
burning,  fevwish  desire  to  possess  ajid  enjoy,  that  extra- 
ordinary perversion  set  in,  growing  worse  and  worse  each  day, 


and  changing  Bernadette's  peaceful  Bethlehem  into  a  perfect 
Sodom  or  Gomorrah.  Father  Semp^  had  ensured  the  triumph 
of  his  Divinity  by  spreading  human  abominations  all  around 
and  wrecking  thousands  of  souls.  Gigantic  buildings  rose 
from  the  ground,  five  or  six  millions  of  francs  had  already 
been  expended,  everything  being  sacrificed  to  the  stern  deter- 
mination to  leave  the  poor  parish  out  in  the  cold  and  keep  the 
entire  plunder  for  self  and  friends.  Those  costly,  colossal 
gradient  ways  had  only  been  erected  in  order  to  avoid  compli- 
ance with  the  Virgin's  express  desire  that  the  faithful  should 
come  to  the  Grotto  in  procession.  For  to  go  down  from  the 
Basilica  by  the  incline  on  the  left,  and  climb  up  to  it  agaiii  by 
the  inchne  on  the  right,  could  certainly  not  be  called  going  to 
the  Grotto  in  procession :  it  was  simply  so  much  revolving 
in  a  circle.  However,  the  Fathers  cared  little  about  that ; 
they  had  succeeded  in  compelling  people  to  start  from  their 
premises  and  return  to  them,  in  order  that  they  might  be  the 
sole  proprietors  of  the  affair,  the  opulent  farmers  who  gar- 
nered the  whole  harvest.  Abb6  Peyramale  lay  buried  in  the 
crypt  of  his  unfinished,  ruined  church,  and  Bernadette,  who 
had  long  since  dragged  out  her  life  of  suffering  in  the  depths 
of  a  convent  far  away,  was  now  likewise  sleeping  the  eternal 
sleep  under  a  flagstone  in  a  chapel. 

Deep  sUence  fell  when  Doctor  Chassaigne  had  finished 
this  long  narrative.  Then,  with  a  painful  effort,  he  rose  to 
his  feet  again :  '  It  will  soon  be  ten  o'clock,  my  dear  child,' 
said  he,  'and  I  want  you  to  take  a  little  rest.  Let  us  go 

Pierre  followed  him  without  speaking ;  and  they  retraced 
their  steps  towards  the  town  at  a  more  rapid  pace. 

'  Ah !  yes,'  resumed  the  doctor, '  there  were  great  iniquities 
and  great  sufferings  in  it  all.  But  what  else  could  you 
expect  ?  Man  spoils  and  corrupts  the  most  beautiful  things. 
And  you  cannot  yet  understand  aU  the  woeful  sadness  of  the 
things  of  which  I  have  been  talking  to  you.  You  must  see 
them,  lay  your  hand  on  them.  Would  you  like  me  to  show 
you  Bernadette's  room  and  Abb6  Peyramale's  unfinished 
church  this  evening  ? ' 

'  Yes,  I  should  indeed ! '  replied  Pierre. 

'  Well,  I  win  meet  you  in  front  of  the  Basilica  after  the 
four  o'clock  procession,  and  you  can  come  with  me.' 

Then  they  spoke  no  further,  each  becoming  absorbed  in 
bis  reverie  once  more. 


The  Gave,  now  upon  their  right  hand,  was  flowing  through 
a  deep  gorge,  a  kind  of  cleft  into  which  it  plunged,  vanishing 
from  sight  among  the  bushes.  But  at  intervals  a  clear  stretch 
of  it,  looking  Uke  unbumished  silver,  would  appear  to  view ; 
and,  farther  on,  after  a  sudden  turn  in  the  road,  they  found 
it  flowing  in  increased  volume  across  a  plain,  where  it  spread 
at  times  into  glassy  sheets  which  must  often  have  changed 
their  beds,  for  the  gravelly  soil  was  ravined  on  all  sides*  The 
sun  was  now  becoming  very  hot,  and  was  already  high  in  the 
heavens,  whose  hmpid  azure  assumed  a  deeper  tinge  above 
the  vast  circle  of  mountains. 

And  it  was  at  this  turn  of  the  road  that  Lourdes,  still 
some  distance  away,  reappeared  to  the  eyes  of  Pierre  and 
Doctor  Chassaigne.  In  the  splendid  morning  atmosphere, 
amid  a  flying  dust  of  gold  and  purple  rays,  the  town  showed 
whitely  on  the  horizon,  its  houses  and  monuments  becoming 
more  and  more  distinct  at  each  step  which  brought  them 
nearer.  And  the  doctor,  still  silent,  at  last  waved  his  arm 
vrith  a  broad,  mournful  gesture  in  order  to  call  his  com- 
panion's attention  to  this  growing  town,  as  though  to  a  proof 
of  all  that  he  had  been  telling  him.  There,  indeed,  rising  up 
in  the  dazzling  daylight,  was  the  evidence  which  confirmed 
his  words.  ,   . 

The  flare  of  the  Grotto,  fainter  now  that  the  sun  was 
shining,  could  already  be  espied  amidst  the  greenery.  And 
soon  afterwards  the  gigantic  monumental  works  spread  out : 
the  quay  with  its  freestone  parapet  skirting  the  Gave,  whose 
course  had  been  diverted ;  the  new  bridge  connecting  the  new 
gardens  with  the  recently  opened  boulevard;  the  colossal 
gradient  ways,  the  massive  church  of  the  Eosary,  and,  finally, 
the  shm,  tapering  Basilica  rising  above  all  else  with  graceful 
pride.  Of  the  new  town  spread  all  around  the  monuments, 
the  wealthy  city  which  had  sprung  as  though  by  enchant- 
ment from  the  ancient  impoverished  soU,  the  great  convents 
and  the  great  hotels,  you  could,  at  this  distance,  merely  dis- 
tinguish a  swarming  of  white  facades  and  a  scintillation  of 
new  slates  ;  whilst,  in  confusion,  far  away,  beyond  the  rocky 
mass,  on  which  the  crumbling  castle  walls  were  profiled 
against  the  sky,  appeared  the  humble  roofs  of  the  old  town,  a 
jumble  of  little  time-worn  roofs,  pressing  timorously  against 
one  another.  And  as  a  background  to  this  vision  of  the  life 
of  yesterday  and  to-day,  the  Httle  and  the  big  Gers  rose  up 
beneath  the  splendour  of  the  everlasting  sun,  and  barred  the 


horizon  \rith  their  bare  slopes,  which  the  oblique  rays  were 
tinging  with  streaks  of  pink  and  yellow. 

Doctor  Chassaigne  insisted  on  accompanying  Pierre  to  the 
Hotel  of  the  Apparitions,  and  only  parted  from  him  at  its  door, 
after  reminding  him  of  their  appointment  for  the  afternoon. 
It  was  not  yet  eleven  o'clock.  Pierre,  whom  fatigue  had 
suddenly  mastered,  forced  himself  to  eat  before  going  to  bed, 
for  he  reaUsed  that  want  of  food  was  one  of  the  chief  causes 
of  the  weakness  which  had  come  over  him.  He  fortunately 
found  a  vacant  seat  at  the  table  d'hdte,  and  made  some  kind 
of  a  dejeuner,  half  asleep  all  the  time,  and  scarcely  knowing 
what  was  served  to  him.  Then  he  went  upstairs  and  flung 
himself  on  his  bed,  after  taking  care  to  tell  the  servant  to 
awake  him  at  three  o'clock. 

However,  on  lying  down,  the  fever  that  consumed  him  at 
first  prevented  him  from  closing  his  eyes.  A  pair  of  gloves, 
forgotten  in  the  next  room,  had  reminded  him  of  M.  de  Guer- 
saint,  who  had  left  for  Gavarnie  before  daybreak,  and  would 
only  return  in  the  evening.  What  a  delightful  gift  was 
thoughtlessness,  thought  Pierre.  For  his  own  part,  with  his 
limbs  worn  out  by  weariness  and  his  mind  distracted,  he  was 
sad  unto  death.  Everything  seemed  to  conspire  against  his 
willing  desire  to  regain  the  faith  of  his  childhood.  The  tale 
of  Abb6  Peyramale's  tragic  adventures  had  simply  aggravated 
the  feeling  of  revolt  which  the  story  of  Bernadette,  chosen 
and  martyred,  had  implanted  in  his  breast.  And  thus  he 
asked  himself  whether  Ms  search  after  the  truth,  instead  of 
restoring  his  faith,  ■should  not  rather  lead  him  to  yet  greater 
hatred  of  ignorance  and  credulity,  and  to  the  bitter  conviction 
that  man  is  indeed  all  alone  La  the  world,  with  naught  to 
guide  him  save  his  reason. 

At  last  he  feU  asleep,  but  visions  contiaued  hovering 
around  him  in  his  painful  slumber.  He  beheld  Lourdes,  con- 
taminated by  Mammon,  turned  into  a  spot  of  abomination  and 
perdition,  transformed  into  a  huge  bazaar,  where  everything 
was  sold,  masses  and  souls  alike  1  He  beheld  also  Abbi 
Peyramale,  dead  and  slumbering  under  the  ruins  of  his  church, 
among  the  nettles  which  ingratitude  had  sown  there.  And  he 
only  grew  calm  again,  only  tasted  the  delights  of  forgetfulness 
when  a  last  pale,  woeful  vision  had  faded  from  his  gaze — a 
vision  of  Bernadette  upon  her  knees  in  a  gloomy  comer  at 
Nevers,  dreaming  of  her  far-away  work,  which  she  was  never, 
never  to  behold. 




At  the  Hospital  of  Our  Lady  of  Dolours,  that  morning,  Maria 
remained  seated  on  her  bed,  propped  up  by  pillows.  Having 
spent  the  whole  night  at  the  Grotto,  she  had  refused  to  let 
them  take  her  back  there.  And,  as  Madame  de  JonquiSre 
approached  her,  to  raise  one  of  the  piUows  which  was  shpping 
feom  its  place,  she  asked :  '  What  day  is  it,  madame  ? ' 

'Monday,  my  dear  child." 

'  Ah  !  true.  One  so  soon  loses  count  of  the  time.  And, 
besides,  I  am  so  happy  1  It  is  to-day  that  the  Blessed  Virgin 
will  cure  me  1 ' 

She  smiled  divinely,  with  the  air  of  a  day  dreamer,  her 
eyes  gazing  into  vacancy,  her  thoughts  so  far  away,  so  ab- 
sorbed in  her  one  fixed  idea,  that  she  beheld  nothing  save  the 
certainty  of  her  hope.  Bound  about  her,  the  Sainte-Honorine 
Ward  was  now  quite  deserted,  all  the  patients,  excepting 
Madame  Y^tu,  who  lay  at  the  last  extremity  in  the  next  bed, 
having  already  started  for  the  Grotto.  But  Marie  did  not 
even  notice  her  neighbour ;  she  was  delighted  with  the  sudden 
stillness  which  had  fallen.  One  of  the  windows  overlooking 
the  courtyard  had  been  opened,  and  the  glorious  morning  sun- 
shine entered  in  one  broad  beam,  whose  golden  dust  was 
dancing  over  her  bed  and  streaming  upon  her  pale  hands.  It 
was  indeed  pleasant  to  find  this  room,  so  dismal  at  night-time 
with  its  many  beds  of  sickness,  its  unhealthy  atmosphere 
and  its  nightmare  groans,  thus  suddenly  filled  with  sunlight, 
purified  by  the  morning  an-,  and  wrapped  in  such  delicious 
silence ! 

'  Why  don't  you  try  to  sleep  a  little? '  maternally  inquired 
Madame  de  Jonquike.  '  You  must  be  quite  worn  out  by  your 


Marie,  who  felt  so  light  and  cheerful  that  she  no  longer 
experienced  any  pain,  seemed  surprised. 

'  But  I  am  not  at  all  tired,  and  I  don't  feel  a  bit  sleepy. 
Go  to  sleep  ?  Oh !  no,  that  would  be  too  sad.  I  should  no 
longer  know  that  I  was  going  to  be  cured  1 ' 

At  this  the  superintendent  laughed.  '  Then  why  didn't 
you  let  them  take  you  to  the  Grotto  ? '  she  asked.  '  You  won't 
know  what  to  do  with  yourself  all  alone  here.' 

'  I  am  not  alone,  madame,  I  am  with  her,'  replied  Marie ; 
and  thereupon,  her  -vision  returning  to  her,  she  clasped  her 
hands  in  ecstasy.  ~  '  Last  night,  you  know,  I  saw  her  bend 
her  head  towards  me  and  smile.  I  quite  imderstood  her,  I 
could  hear  her  voice,  although  she  never  opened  her  lips. 
When  the  Blessed  Sacrament  passes  at  four  o'clock  I  shall  be 

Madame  de  Jonqui^re  tried  to  calm  her,  feeling  rather 
anxious  at  the  species  of  somnambuUsm  in  which  she  beheld 
her.  However,  the  sick  girl  went  on :  '  No,  no,  I  am  no  worse, 
I  am  waiting.  Only,  you  must  surely  see,  madame,  that 
there  is  no  need  for  me  to  go  to  the  Grotto  this  morning,  since 
the  appointment  which  she  gave  me  is  for  four  o'clock.'  And 
then  the  girl  added  in  a  lower  tone  :  '  Pierre  will  come  for  me 
at  half-past  three.    At  four  o'clock  I  shall  be  cured.' 

The  sunbeam  slowly  made  its  way  up  her  bare  arms,  whicb 
were  now  almost  transparent,  so  wasted  had  they  become 
through  illness ;  whilst  her  glorious  fair  hair,  which  had  fallen 
over  her  shoulders,  seemed  like  the  very  effulgence  of  the  great 
luminary  enveloping  her.  The  trill  of  a  bird  came  in  from 
the  courtyard,  and  quite  enlivened  the  tremulous  silence  of  the 
ward.  Some  child  who  could  not  be  seen  must  also  have  been 
playing  close  by,  for  now  and  again  a  soft  laugh  could  be 
heard  ascending  in  the  warm  air  which  was  so  delightfully 

'  Well,'  said  Madame  de  Jonquiere  by  way  of  conclusion, 
'  don't  sleep  then,  as  you  don't  wish  to.  But  keep  quite  quiet, 
and  it  will  rest  you  all  the  same.' 

Meantime  Madame  VStu  was  expiring  in  the  adjoining 
bed.  They  had  not  dared  to  take  her  to  the  Grotto,  for  ffear 
lest  they  should  see  her  die  on  the  way.  For  some  little  time 
-  she  had  Iain  there  with  her  eyes  closed,  and  Sister  Hyaeinthe, 
who  was  watching,  had  beckoned  to  Madame  D^sagneaux  in 
order  to  acquaint  her  with  the  bad  opinion  she  had  formed  of 
the  case.    Both  of  them  were  now  leaning  over  the  dying 


woman,  observing  her  with  increasing  anxiety.  The  mask 
upon  her  face  had  turned  more  yellow  than  ever;  and  now 
looked  like  mud  ;  her  eyes  had  become  more  sunken,  her  lips 
seemed  to  have  grown  thinner,  and  the  death  rattle  had  begun, 
a  slow,  pestilential  wheezing,  polluted  by  the  cancer  which  was 
finishing  its  destructive  work.  All  at  once  she  raised  her 
eyelids,  and  was  seized  with  fear  on  beholding  those  two  faces 
bent  over  her  own.  Could  her  death  be  near,  that  they  should 
thus  be  gazing  at  her  ?  Immense  sadness  showed  itself  iii  her 
eyes,  a  despairing  regret  of  life.  It  was  not  a  vehement 
revolt,  for  she  no  longer  had  the  strength  to  struggle ;  but 
what  a  frightful  fate  it  was  to  have  left  her  shop,  her  sur- 
roundings, and  her  husband,  merely  to  come  and  die  so  far 
away ;  to  have  braved  the  abominable  torture  of  such  a 
journey,  to  have  prayed  both  day  and  night,  and  then,  instead 
of  having  her  prayer  granted,  to  die  when  others  recovered  ! 

However,  she  could  do  no  more  than  murmur  :  '  Oh !  how 
I  suffer,  oh  !  how  I  suffer.  Do  something,  anything,  to  relieve 
this  pain,  I  beseech  you.' 

Little  Madame  Desagneaux,  with  her  pretty  milk-white 
face  half-hidden  by  a  mass  of  fair,  frizzy  hair,  was  quite  up- 
set. She  was  not  used  to  death-bed  scenes,  she  would  have 
given  half  her  heart,  as  she  expressed  it,  to  see  that  poor 
woman  recover.  And  she  rose  up  and  began  to  question 
Sister  Hyaeinthe,  who  was  also  in  tears  but  already  resigned, 
knowing  as  she  did  that  salvation  was  assured  when  one  died 
well.  Could  nothing  really  be  done,  however  ?  Could  not 
something  be  tried  to  ease  the  dying  woman  ?  Abb6  Judaine 
had  come  and  administered  the  last  sacrament  to  her  a  couple 
of  hours  earlier  that  very  morning.  She  now  only  had  Heaven 
to  look  to ;  it  was  her  only  hope,  for  she  had  long  since  given 
up  expecting  aid  from  the  skill  of  man. 

'  No,  no  I  we  must  do  something,'  exclaimed  Madame 
Desagneaux.  And  thereupon  she  went  and  fetched  Madame 
de  Jonqui^re  from  beside  Marie's  bed.  '  Look  how  this  poor 
creature  is  suffering,  madame,'  she  exclaimed.  '  Sister  Hya- 
einthe says  that  she  can  only  last  a  few  hours  longer.  But 
we  cannot  leave  her  moaning  like  this.  There  are  things 
which  give  relief.  Why  not  call  that  young  doctor  who  is 
here  ? ' 

'  Of  course  we  will,'  replied  the  superintendent.  '  We  vrill 
send  for  him  at  once.' 

They  seldom  thought  of  the  doctor  in  the  wards.    It  only 


occurred  to  the  ladies  to  send  for  him  when  a  case  was  at  its 
very  worst,  when  one  of  their  patients  was  howhng  with  pain. 
Sister  Hyacinthe,  who  herself  felt  surprised  at  not  having 
thought  of  Ferrand,  whom  shebeheved  to  be  in  an  adjoining 
room,  inquired  if  she  should  fetch  him. 

'  Certainly,'  was  the  reply.  '  Bring  him  as  quickly  as 

When  the  Sister  had  gone,  Madame  de  Jonqui^re  made 
Madame  D6sagneaux  help  her  in  slightly  raising  the  dying 
woman's  head,  thinking  that  this  might  relieve  her.  The  two 
ladies  happened  to  be  alone  there  that  morning,  all  the  other 
lady-hospitaUers  having  gone  to  their  devotions  or  their 
private  affairs.  However,  from  the  end  of  the  large  deserted 
ward,  where,  amidst  the  warm  quiver  of  the  sunlight  such 
sweet  tranquillity  prevailed,  there  still  came  at  intervals  the 
light  laughter  of  the  unseen  child. 

'  Can  it  be  Sophie  who  is  making  such  a  noise  ?  '  suddenly 
asked  the  lady  superintendent,  whose  nerves  were  slightly 
upset  by  all  the  worry  of  the  death  which  she  foresaw.  Then 
quickly  walking  to  the  end  of  the  ward,  she  found  that  it 
was  indeed  Sophie  Couteau — the  young  girl  so  miraculously 
healed  the  previous  year — who,  seated  on  the  floor  behind  a 
bed,  had  been  amusing  herself,  despite  her  fourteen  years,  in 
making  a  doU  out  of  a  few  rags.  She  was  now  talking  to  it, 
so  happy,  so  absorbed  in  her  play,  that  she  laughed  quite 
heartily.  '  Hold  yourself  up,  mademoiselle,'  said  she.  '  Dance 
the  polka,  that  I  may  see  how  you  can  do  it  1  One  !  two  I 
dance,  turn,  kiss  the  one  you  like  best ! ' 

Madame  de  Jonqui^re,  however,  was  now  coming  up, 
'  Little  girl,'  she  said, '  we  have  one  of  our  patients  here  in 
great  pain,  and  not  expected  to  recover.  You  must  not 
laugh  so  loud.' 

'  Ah  !  madame,  I  didn't  know,'  replied  Sophie,  rising  up, 
and  becoming  quite  serious,  although  stUl  holding  the  doU.  ia 
her  hand.    '  Is  she  going  to  die,  madame  ?  ' 

'  I  fear  so,  my  poor  child.' 

Thereupon  Sophie  became  quite  silent.  She  followed  the 
superintendent,  and  seated  herself  on  an  adjoining  bed ; 
whence,  without  the  slightest  sign  of  fear,  but  with  her  large 
eyes  burning  with  curiosity,  she  began  to  watch  Madame 
VStu's  death  agony.  In  her  nervous  state,  Madame  D^sag- 
neaux  was  growing  impatient  at  the  delay  in  the  doctor's 
arrival ;  whilst  Marie,  stiU  enraptured,  and  resplendent  in  the 


Bunlight,  seemed  unconscious  of  what  was  taking  place  about 
her,  wrapt  as  she  was  in  delightful  expectancy  of  the 

Not  having  found  Ferrand  in  the  small  apartment  near 
the  linen-room  which  he  usually  occupied,  Sister  Hyacinthe 
was  now  searching  for  him  all  over  the  bmlding.  During  the 
past  two  days  the  young  doctor  had  become  more  bewildered 
than  ever  in  that  extraordinary  hospital,  where  his  assistance 
was  only  sought  for  the  rehef  of  death  pangs.  The  small 
medicine-chest  which  he  had  brought  with  him  proved  quite 
useless  ;  for  there  could  be  no  thought  of  trying  any  course  of 
treatment,  as  the  sick  were  not  there  to  be  doctored,  but  simply 
to  be  cured  by  the  Hghtning  stroke  of  a  miracle.  And  so  he 
mainly  confined  himself  to  administering  a  few  opium  pills,  in 
order  to  deaden  the  severer  sufferings.  He  had  been  fairly 
amazed  when  accompanying  Doctor  Bonamy  on  a  round 
through  the  wards.  It  had  resolved  itself  into  a  mere  stroll, 
the  doctor,  who  had  only  come  out  of  curiosity,  taking  no 
interest  in  the  patients,  whom  he  neither  questioned  nor 
examined.  He  solely  concerned  himself  with  the  pretended 
cases  of  cure,  stopping  opposite  those  women  whom  he  recog- 
nised from  having  seen  them  at  his  ofiSce  where  the  miracles 
were  verified.  One  of  them  had  suffered  from  three  com- 
plaints, only  one  of  which  the  Blessed  Virgin  had  so  far 
deigned  to  cure ;  but  great  hopes  were  entertained  respecting 
the  other  two.  Sometimes,  when  a  wretched  woman,  who 
the  day  before  had  claimed  to  be  cured,  was  questioned  with 
reference  to  her  health,  she  would  reply  that  her  pains  had 
returned  to  her.  However,  this  never  disturbed  the  doctor's 
serenity;  ever  conciliatory,  the  good  man  declared  that 
Heaven  would  surely  complete  what  Heaven  had  begun. 
Whenever  there  was  an  improvement  in  health,  he  would  ask 
if  it  were  not  something  to  be  thankful  for  ?  And,  indeed, 
his  constant  saying  was :  '  There's  an  improvement  already ; 
be  patient  1 '  What  he  most  dreaded  were  the  importunities 
of  the  lady-superintendents,  who  all  wished  to  detain  him  to 
show  him  sundry  extraordinary  cases.  Each  prided  herself 
on  having  the  most  serious  illnesses,  the  most  frightful,  excep- 
tional cases  in  her  ward  ;  so  that  she  was  eager  to  have  them 
medically  authenticated,  in  order  that  she  might  share  in  the 
triumph  should  cure  supervene.  One  caught  the  doctor  by 
the  arm  and  assured  him  that  she  felt  confident  she  had  a 
leper  in  her  charge ;  another  entreated  him  to  come  and  look 


at  a  young  girl  whose  back,  she  said,  was  covered  with  fish's 
scales ;  whUst  a  third,  whispering  in  his  ear,  gave  him  some 
terrible  details  about  a  married  lady  of  the  best  society.  He 
hastened  away,  however,  refusing  to  see  even  one  of  them,  or 
else  simply  promising  to  come  back  later  on  when  he  was  not 
so  busy.  As  he  himself  said,  if  he  Ustened  to  aU  those  ladies, 
the  day  would  pass  in  useless  consultations.  However,  he  at 
last  suddenly  stopped  opposite  one  of  the  miraculously  cured 
inmates,  and,  beckoning  Ferrand  to  his  side,  exclaimed : '  Ah ! 
now  here  is  an  interesting  cure  ! '  and  Ferrand,  utterly  bewil- 
dered, had  to  listen  to  him  whilst  he  described  all  the  features 
of  the  illness,  which  had  totally  disappeared  at  the  first  im- 
mersion in  the  piscina. 

At  last  Sister  Hyaeinthe,  stiU  wandering  about,  encountered 
Abbs  Judaiae,  who  informed  her  that  the  young  doctor  had 
just  been  summoned  to  the  Family  Ward.  It  was  the  fourth 
time  he  had  gone  down  there  to  attend  to  Brother  Isidore, 
whose  sufferings  were  as  acute  as  ever,  and  whom  he  could 
only  stuff  with  opium.  In  his  agony,  the  Brother  himself 
merely  asked  to  be '  soothed  a  little,  in  order  that  he  might 
gather  sufficient  strength  to  return  to  the  Grotto  during  the 
afternoon,  as  he  had  not  been  able  to  do  so  ia  the  morning. 
However,  his  pains  increased,  and  at  last  he  swooned  away. 

When  the  Sister  entered  the  ward  she  found  the  doctor 
seated  at  the  missionary's  bedside.  '  Monsieur  Ferrand,'  she 
said, '  come  upstairs  with  me  to  the  Sainte-Honorine  Ward  at 
once.    We  have  a  patient  there  at  the  point  of  death.' 

He  smiled  at  her ;  indeed,  he  never  beheld  her  without 
feehng  brighter  and  comforted.  '  I  wiU  come  with  you,  Sister,' 
he  replied.  '  But  you'll  wait  a  minute,  won't  you  ?  I  must 
try  to  restore  this  poor  man.' 

She  waited  patiently  and  made  herself  useful.  The  Family 
Ward,  situated  on  the  ground-floor,  was  also  full  of  sunshine 
and  fresh  air,  which  entered  through  three  large  windows 
opening  on  to  a  narrow  strip  of  garden.  In  addition  to 
Brother  Isidore,  only  Monsieur  Sabathier  had  remained  in 
bed  that  morning,  in  view  of  obtaining  a  little  rest ;  whilst 
Madame  Sabathier,  taking  advantage  of  the  opportunity,  had 
gone  to  purchase  a  few  medals  and  pictures,  which  she  intended 
for  presents.  Comfortably  seated  on  his  bed,  his  back  sup- 
ported by  some  pillows,  the  ex-professor  was  rolling  the  beada 
of  a  chaplet  between  his  fingers.  He  was  no  longer  praying, 
however,  but  merely  continuing  the  occupation  in  a  mechani- 


cal  manner,  his  eyes,  meantime,  fixed  upon  his  neighbour, 
whose  attack  he  was  following  with  painful  interest. 

'  Ah  I  Sister,'  said  he  to  Sister  Hyacinthe,  who  had  drawn 
near, '  that  poor  Brother  fills  me  with  admiration.  Yesterday 
I  doubted  the  Blessed  Virgin  for  a  moment,  seeing  that  she 
still  did  not  deign  to  hear  me,  though  I  have  been .  coming 
here  for  seven  years  ;  but  the  example  set  me  by  that  poor 
martyr,  so  resigned  amidst  his  torments,  has  quite  shamed 
me  for  my  want  of  faith.  You  can  have  no  idea  how  grievously 
he  Buffers,  and  you  should  see  him  at  the  Grotto,  with  his 
eyes  glowing  with  divine  hope !  It  is  reaUy  subUme  !  I  only 
know  of  one  picture  at  the  Louvre — a  picture  by  some  unknown 
ItaUan  master — in  which  there  is  the  head  of  a  monk  beatified 
by  a  similar  faith.' 

The  man  of  intellect,  the  ex-university  professor,  reared 
on  hterature  and  art,  was  reappearing  in  this  poor  old  fellow, 
whose  life  had  been  blasted,  and  who  had  desired  to  become  n 
free  patient,  one  of  the  poor  of  the  earth,  in  order  to  move  tho 
pity  of  Heaven.  He  again  began  thinjnng  of  Ms  own  case, 
and  with  tenacious  hopefulness,  which  the  futility  of  seven 
journeys  to  Lourdes  had  failed  to  destroy,  he  added :  '  Well,  I 
still  have  this  afternoon,  since  we  sha'n't  leave  tUl  to-morrow. 
The  water  is  certainly  very  cold,  but  I  shall  let  them  dip  me 
a  last  time ;  and  all  the  morning  I  have  been  praying  and 
asking  pardon  for  my  revolt  of  yesterday.  When  the  Blessed 
Virgin  chooses  to  cure  one  of  her  children  it  only  takes  her  a 
second  to  do  so ;  is  that  not  so.  Sister  ?  May  her  wiU  be  done, 
and  blessed  be  her  name ! ' 

Passing  the  beads  of  the  chaplet  more  slowly  between  his 
fingers,  he  again  began  saying  his '  Aves  '  and  '  Paters,'  whilst 
his  eyehds  drooped  in  his  flabby  face,  to  which  a  cmldish  ex- 
pression had  been  returning  during  the  many  years  that  he 
had  been  virtually  cut  off  from  the  world. 

Meantime  Ferrand  had  signalled  to  Brother  Isidore's 
sister,  Marthe,  to  come  to  him.  She  had  been  standing  at 
the  foot  of  the  bed  with  her  arms  hanging  down  beside  her, 
showing  the  tearless  resignation  of  a  poor,  narrow-minded 
girl  whilst  she  watched  that  dying  man  whom  she  worshipped. 
She  was  no  more  than  a  faithful  dog ;  she  had  accompanied 
her  brother  and  spent  her  scanty  savings,  without  being  of 
any  use  save  to  watch  him  suffer.  Accordingly,  when  the 
doctor  told  her  to  take  the  invalid  in  her  arms  and  raise  him 
up  a  little,  she  felt  quite  happy  at  being  of  some  service  at 


last.  Her  heavy,  freckled,  mournful  ■  face  actually  grew 

'  Hold  him,'  said  the  doctor,  '  whilst  I  try  to  give  him 

When  she  had  raised  him,  Ferrand,  with  the  aid  of  a  small 
spoon,  succeeded  in  introducing  a  few  drops  of  Uquid  between 
his-set  teeth.  Almost  immediately  the  sick  man  opened  his 
eyes  and  heaved  a  deep  sigh.  He  was  calmer  already ;  the 
opium  was  taking  effect  and  dulling  the  pain  which  he  felt 
burning  his  right  side,  as  though  a  red-hot  iron  were  being 
applied  to  it.  However,  he  remained  so  weak  that,  when  he 
wished  to  speak,  it  became  necessary  to  place  one's  ear  close 
to  his  mouth  in  order  to  catch  what  he  said.  With  a  slight 
sign  he  had  begged  Ferrand  to  bend  over  him.  '  You  are  the 
doctor,  monsieur,  are  you  not  ? '  he  faltered.  '  Give  me  suf- 
ficient strength  that  I  may  go  once  more  to  the  Grotto,  this 
afternoon.  I  am  certain  that,  if  I  am  able  to  go,  the  Blessed 
Virgin  wiU  cure  me.' 

'  Why,  of  course  you  shall  go,'  repHed  the  young  man. 
'  Don't  you  feel  ever  so  much  better  ? ' 

'  Oh  !  ever  so  much  better — no !  I  know  very  well  what 
my  condition  is,  because  I  saw  many  of  our  Brothers  die,  out 
there  in  Senegal.  When  the  liver  is  attacked  and  the  abscess 
has  worked  its  way  outside,  it  means  the  end.  Sweating, 
fever,  and  delirium  follow.  But  the  Blessed  Virgin  will  touch 
the  sore  with  her  little  finger  and  it  will  be  healed.  Oh  1  I 
implore  you  all,  take  me  to  the  Grotto,  even  if  I  should  be 
unconscious ! ' 

Sister  Hyacinthe  had  also  approached,  and  leant  over  him. 
'Be  easy,  dear  Brother,'  said  she.  'You  shall  go  to  the 
Grotto  after  dijevmer,  and  we  will  aU  pray  for  you,' 

At  length,  in  despair  at  these  delays  and  extremely 
anxious  about  Madame  Vetu,  she  was  able  to  get  Ferrand 
away.  Still,  the  Brother's  state  filled  her  with  pity ;  and,  as 
they  ascended  the  stairs,  she  questioned  the  doctor,  asking  him 
if  there  were  really  no  more  hope.  The  other  made  a  ges- 
ture expressive  of  absolute  hopelessness.  It  was  madness  to 
come  to  Lourdes  when  in  such  a  condition.  However,  he 
hastened  to  add,  with  a  smUe  :  '  I  beg  your  pardon,  Sister. 
You  know  that  I  am  unfortunate  enough  not  to  be  a  believer.' 

But  she  smiled  in  her  turn,  like  an  indulgent  friend  who 
tolerates  the  shortcomings  of  those  she  loves.  '  Oh  1  that 
doesn't  matter,'  she  replied,    'I  know  you;  you're  all  the 


same  a  good  fellow.  Besides,  we  see  so  many  people,  we  go 
amongst  such  pagans  that  it  would  be  difficult  to  shock  us.' 

Up  above,  in  the  Sainte-Honorine  Ward,  they  found  Ma- 
dame VStu  still  moaning,  a  prey  to  most  intolerable  suffering. 
Madame  de  JonquiSre  and  Madame  D^sagneaux  had  remained 
beside  the  bed,  their  faces  turning  pale,  their  hearts  distracted 
by  that  death-cry,  which  never  ceased.  And  when  they  consulted 
Ferrand  in  a  whisper,  he  merely  replied,  with  a  slight  shrug 
of  the  shoulders,  that  she  was  a  lost  woman,  that  it  was  only 
a  question  of  hours,  perhaps  merely  of  minutes.  All  he  could 
do  was  to  stupefy  her  also,  in  order  to  ease  the  atrocious  death 
agony  which  he  foresaw.  She  was  watching  him,  still  con- 
scious, and  also  very  obedient,  never  refusing  the  medicine 
offered  her.  Like  the  others,  she  now  had  but  one  ardent 
desire — ^tb  go  back  to  the  Grotto — and  she  gave  expression  to 
it  in  the  stammering  accents  of  a  chUd  who  fears  that  its 
prayer  may  not  be  granted  :  '  To  the  Grotto — will  yon  ?  To 
the  Grotto  r 

'  You  shall  be  taken  there  by-and-by,  I  promise  you,'  said 
Bister  Hyacinthe.  '  But  you  must  be  good.  Try  to  sleep  a 
little,  to  gain  some'  strength." 

The  sick  woman  appeared  to  sink  into  a  doze,  and  Madame 
de  JonquiSre  then  thought  that  she  might  take  Madame 
D^sagneaux  with  her  to  the  other  end  of  the  ward  to  count 
the  linen,  a  troublesome  business,  in  which  they  became  quite 
bewildered,  as  some  of  the  articles  were  missing.  Meantime 
Sophie,  seated  on  the  bed  opposite  Madame  Vetu,  had  not 
stirred.  She  had  laid  her  doll  on  her  lap,  and  was  waiting 
for  the  lady's  death,  since  they  had  told  her  that  she  was 
about  to  die.  Sister  Hyacinthe,  moreover,  had  remained 
beside  the  dying  woman,  and,  unwiUing  to  waste  her  time, 
had  taken  a  needle  and  cotton  to  mend  some  patient's  bodice 
which  had  a  hole  in  the  sleeve. 

'  You'll  stay  a  little  while  with  us,  won't  you  ? '  she  asked 

The  latter,  who  was  still  watching  Madame  V^tu,  replied : 
'  Yes,  yes.  She  may  go  off  at  any  moment.  I  fear  hsemor- 
rhage.'  Then,  catching  sight  of  Marie  on  the  neighbouring 
bed,  he  added  in  a  lower  voice ;  '  How  is  she  ?  Has  she  ex- 
perienced any  relief  ? ' 

'  No,  not  yet.  Ah,  dear  child !  we  all  pray  for  her  very 
sincerely.  She  is  so  young,  so  sweet,  and  so  sorely  afflicted. 
Just  look  at  her  now !    Isn't  she  pretty  ?    One  might  think 


her  a  saint  amid  all  this  sunshine,  with  her  large,  ecstatic 
eyes,  and  her  golden  hair  shining  hke  an  aureola ! ' 

Ferrand  watched  Marie  for  a  moment  with  interest.  Her 
absent  air,  her  indifference  to  all  about  her,  the  ardent  faith, 
the  internal  joy  which  so  completely  absorbed  her,  surprised 
him.  '  She  will  recover,'  he  murmured,  as  though  giving 
utterance  to  a  prognostic.    '  She  will  recover.' 

Then  he  rejoined  Sister  Hyacinthe,  who  had  seated  herself 
in  the  embrasure  of  the  lofty  window,  which  stood  wide  open, 
admitting  the  warm  air  of  the  courtyard.  The  sun  was  now 
creeping  round,  and  only  a  narrow  golden  ray  fell  upon  her 
white  coif  and  wimple.  Ferrand  stood  opposite  to  her, 
leaning  against  the  window  bar  and  watching  her  while  she 
sewed.  'Do  you  know,  Sister,'  said  he,  'this  journey  to 
Lourdes,  which  I  undertook  to  oblige  a  friend,  wUl  be  one  of 
the  few  delights  of  my  life.' 

She  did  not  understand  him,  but  innocently  asked :  '  Why 


'  Because  I  have  found  you  again,  because  I  am  here  with 
you,  assisting  you  in  your  admirable  work.  And  if  you  only 
knew  how  grateful  I  am  to  you,  what  sincere  affection  and 
reverence  I  feel  for  you ! ' 

She  raised  her  head  to  look  him  straight  in  the  face,  and 
began  jesting  without  the  least  constraint.  She  was  really 
delicious,  with  her  pure  lily-white  complexion,  her  small  laugh- 
ing mouth,  and  adorable  blue  eyes  which  ever  smiled.  And 
you  could  realise  that  she  had  grown  up  in  all  innocence  and 
devotion,  slender  and  supple,  with  all  the  appearance  of  a  girl 
hardly  in  her  teens. 

'What!  You  are  so  fond  of  me  as  all  that ! '  she  ex- 
claimed.   '  Why  ? ' 

'  Why  I'm  fond  of  you  ?  Because  you  are  the  best,  the 
most  consoling,  the  most  sisterly  of  beings.  You  are  the 
sweetest  memory  in  my  Ufe,  the  memory  I  evoke  whenever  I 
need  to  be  encouraged  and  sustained.  Do  you  no  longer 
remember  the  month  we  spent  together,  in  my  poor  room, 
when  I  was  so  ill  and  you  so  affectionately  nursed  me  ?  ' 

'  Of  course,  of  course  I  remember  it !  Why,  I  never  had 
so  good  a  patient  as  you.  You  took  all  I  offered  you ;  and 
when  I  tucked  you  in,  after  changing  your  linen,  you  remained 
as  still  as  a  little  child.' 

So  speaking,  she  continued  looking  at  him,  smiling  ingenu- 
ously the  whUe.    He  was  very  handsome  and  robust,  in  the 


very  prime  of  youth,  with  a  rather  pronounced  nose,  superb 
eyes,  and  red  lips  showing  under  his  black  moustache.  But 
she  seemed  to  be  simply  pleased  at  seeing  him  there  before 
her  moved  almost  to  tears. 

'  Ah  1  Sister,  I  should  have  died  if  it  hadn't  been  for  you,' 
he  said.    '  It  was  through  having  you  that  I  was  cured.' 

Then,  as  they  gazed  at  one  another,  with  tender  gaiety  of 
heart,  the  memory  of  that  adorable  month  recurred  to  them. 
They  no  longer  heard  Madame  Vetu's  death  moans,  nor  beheld 
the  ward  littered  with  beds,  and,  with  all  its  disorder,  resem- 
bling some  ambulance  improvised  after  a  public  catastrophe. 
They  once  more  found  themselves  in  a  small  attic  at  the  top 
of  a  dingy  house  in  old  Paris,  where  air  and  hght  only  reached 
them  through  a  tiny  window  opening  on  to  a  sea  of  roofs. 
And  how  charming  it  was  to  be  alone  there  together — ^he  who 
had  been  prostrated  by  fever,  she  who  had  appeared  there  like 
a  good  angel,  who  had  quietly  come  from  her  convent  like  a 
comrade  who  fears  nothing !  It  was  thus  that  she  nursed 
women,  children,  and  men,  as  chance  ordained,  feeling  per- 
fectly happy  so  long  as  she  had  something  to  do,  some  sufferer 
to  reUeve.  She  never  displayed  any  consciousness  of  her  sex ; 
and  he,  on  his  side,  never  seemed  to  have  suspected  that  she 
might  be  a  woman,  except  it  were  for  the  extreme  softness  of 
her  hands,  the  caressing  accents  of  her  voice,  the  beneficent 
gentleness  of  her  manner ;  and  yet  all  the  tender  love  of  a 
mother,  aU  the  affection  of  a  sister,  radiated  from  her  person. 
During  three  weeks,  as  she  had  said,  she  had  nursed  him  like 
a  child,  helping  him  in  and  out  of  bed,  and  rendering  him 
every  necessary  attention,  without  the  slightest  embarrassment 
or  repugnance,  the  holy  purity  bom  of  suffering  and  charity 
shielding  them  both  the  while.  They  were  indeed  far 
removed  from  the  frailties  of  life.  And  when  he  became 
convalescent,  what  a  happy  existence  began,  how  joyously 
they  laughed,  like  two  old  friends !  She  still  watched  over 
him,  scolding  him  and  gently  slapping  his  arms  when  he 
persisted  in  keeping  them  uncovered.  He  would  watch  her 
standing  at  the  basin,  washing  him  a  shirt  in  order  to  save 
him  the  trifling  expense  of  employing  a  laundress.  No  one 
ever  came  up  there ;  they  were  quite  alone,  thousands  of 
miles  away  from  the  world,  delighted  with  this  solitude,  in 
which  their  youth  displayed  such  fraternal  gaiety. 

'  Do  you  remember.  Sister,  the  morning  when  I  was  first 
able  to  walk  about  ? '  asked  Ferrand.    '  You  helped  me  to  get 


up,  and  supported  me  whilst  I  awkwardly  stumbled  about,  no 
longer  knowing  how  to  use  my  legs.    We  did  laugh  so.' 

'  Yes,  yes,  you  were  saved,  and  I  was  very  pleased.' 

'  And  the  day  when  you  brought  me  some  cherries — I  can 
see  it  all  again ;  myself  reclining  on  my  pillows,  and  you  seated 
at  the  edge  of  the  bed,  with  the  cherries  lying  between  us  in 
a  large  piece  of  white  paper.  I  refused  to  touch  them  unless 
you  ate  some  with  me.  And  then  we  took  them  in  turn,  one 
at  a  time,  until  the  paper  was  emptied ;  and  they  were  very 

'  Yes,  yes,  very  nice.  It  v/as  the  same  with  the  currant 
syrup :  you  would  only  drink  it  when  I  took  some  also.' 

Thereupon  they  laughed  yet  louder;  these  recollections 
quite  delighted  them.  But  a  painful  sigh  from  Madame  Vetu 
brought  them  back  to  the  present.  Perrand  leant  over  and 
cast  a  glance  at  the  sick  woman,  who  had  not  stirred.  The 
ward  was  still  full  of  a  quivering  peacefulness,  which  was  only 
broken  by  the  clear  voice  of  Madame  D^sagneaux  counting 
the  linen.  Stifling  with  emotion,  the  young  man  resumed  in 
a  lower  tone  :  '  Ah  !  Sister,  were  I  to  live  a  hundred  years,  to 
know  every  joy,  every  pleasure,  I  should  never  love  another 
woman  as  I  love  you ! ' 

Then  Sister  Hyacinthe,  without,  however,  showing  any 
confusion,  bowed  her  head  and  resumed  her  sewing.  An 
almost  imperceptible  blush  tinged  her  lily-white  skin  with 

'  I  also  love  you  well,  Monsieur  Ferrand,'  she  said, '  but 
you  must  not  make  me  vain.  I  only  did  for  you  what  I  do 
for  so  many  others.  It  is  my  business,  you  see.  And  there 
was  reaUy  only  one  pleasant  thing  about  it  all,  that  the 
Almighty  cured  you.' 

They  were  now  again  interrupted.  La  Grivotte  and  Elise 
Bouquet  had  returned  from  the  Grotto  before  the  others.  La 
Grivotte  at  once  squatted  down  on  her  mattress  on  the  floor, 
at  the  foot  of  Madame  Vetu's  bed,  and,  taking  a  piece  of  bread 
from  her  pocket,  proceeded  to  devour  it.  Ferrand,  since  the 
day  before,  had  felt  some  interest  in  this  consumptive  patient, 
who  was  traversing  such  a  curious  phase  of  agitation,  a  prey 
to  an  inordinate  appetite  and  a  feverish  need  of  motion. 
For  the  moment,  however,  EHse  Bouquet's  case  interested 
him  stiU  more ;  for  it  had  now  become  evident  that  the 
lupuSj  the  sore  which  was  eating  away  her  face,  was  showing 
signs  of  cure.    She  had  continued  bathing  her  face  at  the 


miraculous  fountain,  and  had  just  come  from  the  Verification 
Office,  where  Doctor  Bonamy  had  triumphed.  Ferrand,  quite 
surprised,  went  and  examined  the  sore,  which,  although  still 
far  from  healed,  was  already  paler  in  colour  and  slightly 
desiccated,  displaying  all  the  symptoms  of  gradual  cure. 
And  the  case  seemed  to  him  so  curious,  that  he  resolved  to 
make  some  notes  upon  it  for  one  of  his  old  masters  at  the 
medical  college,  who  was  studying  the  nervous  origin  of 
certain  skin  diseases  due  to  faulty  nutrition. 

'  Have  you  felt  any  pricking  sensation  ? '  he  asked. 

'  Not  at  aU,  monsieur,'  she  replied.  '  I  bathe  my  face  and 
tell  my  beads  with  my  whole  soul,  and  that  is  all.' 

La  Grivotte,  who  was  vain  and  jealous,  and  ever  since  the 
day  before  had  been  going  in  triumph  among  the  crowds, 
thereupon  called  to  the  doctor.  '  I  say,  monsieur,  I  am  cured, 
cured,  cured  completely ! ' 

He  waved  his  hand  to  her  in  a  friendly  way,  but  refused 
to  examine  her.  '  I  know,  my  girl.  There  is  nothing  more 
the  matter  with  you-* 

Just  then  Sister  Hyaciathe  called  to  him.  She  had  put 
her  sewing  down  on  seeing  Madame  Vetu  raise  herself  in  a 
frightful  fit  of  nausea.  In  spite  of  her  haste,  however,  she 
was  too  late  with  the  basin ;  the  sick  woman  had  brought  up 
another  discharge  of  black  matter,  similar  to  soot ;  but;  this 
time,  some  blood  was  mixed  with  it,  httle  specks  of  violet- 
coloured  blood.  It  was  the  hasmorrhage  coming,  the  near  end 
which  Ferrand  had  been  dreading. 

'  Send  for  the  superintendent,'  he  said  in  a  low  voice, 
seating  himself  at  the  bedside. 

Sister  Hyacinthe  ran  for  Madame  de  Jonquiere.  The 
linen  having  been  counted,  she  found  her  deep  in  conver- 
sation with  her  daughter  Eaymonde,  at  some  distance  from 
Madame  D^sagneaux,  who  was  washing  her  hands. 

Eaymonde  had  just  escaped  for  a  few  minutes  from  the 
refectory,  where  she  was  on  duty.  This  was  the  roughest  of 
her  labours.  The  long  narrow  room,  with  its  double  row  of 
greasy  tables,  its  sickening  smell  of  food  and  misery,  quite 
disgusted  her.  And  taking  advantage  of  the  half-hour  still 
remaining  before  the  retm-n  of  the  patients,  she  had  hurried 
upstairs,  where,  out  of  breath,  with  a  rosy  face  and  shining 
eyes,  she  had  thrown  her  arms  round  her  mother's  neck. 

'  Ah  !  mamma,'  she  cried, '  what  happiness !  it's  settled !  * 

Amazed,  her  head  buzzing,  busy  with  the  superintendence 


of   her  ward,  Madame  de  JonquiJre  did  not  understand. 
'  "What's  settled,  my  child  ? '  she  asked. 

Then  Raymonde  lowered  her  voice,  and,  with  a  faint  blush, 
replied :  '  My  marriage ! ' 

It  was  now  the  mother's  turn  to  rejoice.  Lively  satis- 
faction appeared  upon  her  face,  the  fat  face  of  a  ripe,  hand- 
some, and  still  agreeable  woman.  She  at  once  beheld  in  her 
mind's  eye  their  little  lodging  in  the  Eue  Vaneau,  where, 
since  her  husband's  death,  she  had  reared  her  daughter 
with  great  difficulty  upon  the  few  thousand  francs  he  had  left 
her.  This  marriage,  however,  meant  a  return  to  life,  to 
society,  the  good  old  times  come  back  once  more. 

'  Ah  1  my  child,  how  happy  you  make  me ! '  she  exclaimed. 

But  a  feeling  of  uneasiness  suddenly  restrained  her.  God 
was  her  witness  that  for  three  years  past  she  had  been  coming 
to  Lourdes  through  pure  motives  of  charity,  for  the  one  great 
joy  of  nursing  His  beloved  invalids.  Perhaps,  had  she  closely 
examined  her  conscience,  she  might,  behind  her  devotion,  have 
found  some  trace  of  her  fondness  for  authority,  which  ren- 
dered her  present  managerial  duties  extremely  pleasant  to  her. 
However,  the  hope  of  findiog  a  husband  for  her  daughter 
among  the  suitable  young  men  who  swarmed  at  the  Grotto 
was  certainly  her  last  thought.  It  was  a  thought  which 
came  to  her,  of  course,  but  merely  as  somethmg  that  was  pos- 
sible, though  she  never  mentioned  it.  However,  her  happiness 
wrung  an  avowal  from  her  : 

'  Ah !  my  child,  your  success  doesn't  surprise  me.  I  prayed 
to  the  Blessed  Virgin  for  it  this  morning.' 

Then  she  wished  to  be  quite  sure,  and  asked  for  further 
information.  Eaymonde  had  not  yet  told  her  of  her  long  walk 
leaning  on  Gerard's  arm  the  day  before,  for  she  did  not  wish  to 
speak  of  such  things  until  she  was  triumphant,  certain  of 
having  at  last  secured  a  husband.  And  now  it  was  indeed 
settled,  as  she  had  exclaimed  so  gaily  :  that  very  morning  she 
had  again  seen  the  young  man  at  the  Grotto,  and  he  had 
-formally  become  engaged  to  her.  M.  Berthaud  would  un- 
doubtedly ask  for  her  hand  on  his  cousin's  behalf  before  thoy 
took  their  departure  from  Lourdes. 

'  Well,'  declared  Madame  de  Jonquiere,  who  was  now  con- 
vinced, smiling,  and  delighted  at  heart,  '  I  hope  you  will  be 
happy,  since  you  are  so  sensible,  and  do  not  need  my  aid  to 
bring  your  affairs  to  a  successful  issue.     Kiss  me.' 

It  was  at  this  moment  that  Sister  Hyacinths  arrived  to 



anionnce  Madame  YStu's  imminent  death.  Bajmonde  at 
once  ran  off.  And  Madame  Desagneaux,  who  was  wiping  her 
hands,  began  to  complain  of  the  lady-assistants,  who  had  all 
disappeared  precisely  on  the  morning  when  they  were  most 
wanted.  '  For  instance,'  said  she,  '  there's  Madame  Volmar. 
I  should  like  to  know  where  she  can  have  got  to.  '  She  has 
not  been  seen,  even  for  an  hour,  ever  since  our  arrival.' 

'  Pray  leave  Madame  Volmar  alone ! '  replied  Madame  de 
Jonqui^re  with  some  asperity.  '  I  have  abeady  told  you  that 
she  is  ill.' 

They  both  hastened  to  Madame  VStu.  Ferrand  stood 
there  waiting ;  and  Sister  Hyacinthe  having  asked  him  if  there 
were  indeed  nothing  to  be  done,  he  shook  his  head.  The 
dying  woman,  reheved  by  her  first  emesis,  now  lay  inert,  with 
closed  eyes.  But,  a  second  time,  the  frightful  nausea  returned 
to  her,  and  she  brought  up  another  discharge  of  black  matter 
mingled  with  violet-coloured  blood.  Then  she  had  another 
short  interval  of  calm,  during  which  she  noticed  La  Grivotte, 
who  was  greedily  devouring  her  hunk  of  bread  on  the  mattress 
on  the  floor. 

'  She's  cured,  isn't  she  ? '  the  poor  woman  asked,  feeling 
that  she  herself  was  dying. 

La  Grivotte  heard  her,  and  exclaimed  triumphantly :  '  Oh, 
yes,  madame,  cured,  cured,  cured  completely ! ' 

For  a  moment  Madame  Vetu  seemed  overcome  by  a 
miserable  feeling  of  grief,  the  revolt  of  one  who  will  not 
succumb  while  others  continue  to  hve.  But  almost  imme- 
diately she  became  resigned,  and  they  heard  her  add  very 
faintly, '  It  is  the  young  ones  who  ought  to  remain.' 

Then  her  eyes,  which  remained  wide  open,  looked  round,  as 
though  bidding  farewell  to  all  those  persons,  whom  she  seemed 
surprised  to  see  about  her.  She  attempted  to  smile  as  she 
encountered  the  eager  gaze  of  curiosity  which  little  Sophie 
Couteau  still  fixed  upon  her :  this  charming  child  had  come 
to  kiss  her  that  very  morning,  in  her  bed.  EUse  Bouquet, 
who  troubled  herself  about  nobody,  was  meantime  holding  her 
hand-glass,  absorbed  in  the  contemplation  of  her  face,  which 
seemed  to  her  to  be  growing  beautiful,  now  that  the  sore  was 
healing.  But  what  especially  charmed  the  dying  woman  was 
the  sight  of  Marie,  so  lovely  in  her  ecstasy.  She  watched 
her  for  a  long  time,  constantly  attracted  towards  her,  as 
towards  a  vision  of  light  and  joy.    Perhaps  she  fancied  that 


she  already  beKeld  one  of  the  saints  of  Paradise  amid  the  glory 
of  the  sun. 

Suddenly,  however,  the  fits  of  vomiting  returned,  and  now 
she  solely  brought  up  blood,  vitiated  blood,  the  colour  of  claret. 
The  rush  was  so  great  that  it  bespattered  the  sheet,  and  ran 
aU  over  the  bed.  In  vain  did  Madame  de  JonquiSre  and 
Madame  D^sagneaux  bring  cloths ;  they  were  both  very  pale 
and  scarcely  able  to  remain  standing.  Ferrand,  knowing  how 
powerless  he  was,  had  withdrawn  to  the  window,  to  the  very 
spot  where  he  had  so  lately  experienced  such  delicious  emotion  ; 
and  with  an  instinctive  movement,  of  which  she  was  surely 
unconscious, ,  Sister  Hyaointhe  had  likewise  returned  to  that 
happy  window,  as  thpugh  to  be  near  him. 

'  Eeally,  can  you  do  nothing  ?  '  she  inquired. 

'  No,  nothing  I  She  will  go  off  like  that,  in  the  same  way 
as  a  lamp  that  has  burnt  out.' 

Madame  V^tu,  who  was  now  utterly  exhausted,  with  a  thin 
red  stream  still  flowing  from  her  mouth,  looked  fixedly  at 
Madame  -de  Jonqui^re  whilst  faintly  moving  her  lips.  The 
lady-superintendent  thereupon  bent  over  her  and  heard  these 
slowly  uttered  words :  - 

'  About  my  husband,  madame — the  shop  is  in  the  Eue 
Mouffetard^oh !  it's  quite  a  tiny  one,  not  fai?  from  the  Gobelins 
— He's  a  clockmaker,  he  is;  he  couldn't /come  with  me,  of 
course,  having  to  attend  to  the  business  ;  and  he  will  be  very 
much  put  out  when  he  finds  I  don't  come  back — Yes,  I  cleaned 

the  jewellery  and  did  the  errands '    Then  her  voice  grew 

fainter,  her  words  disjointed  by  the  death-rattle,  which  began. 
'  Therefore,  madame,  I  beg  you  will  write  to  him,  because  I 
haven't  done  so,  and  now  here's  the  end — Tell  him  my  body 
had  better  remain  at  Lourdes,  on  account  of  the  expense — And 
he  must  marry  again;  it's  necessary  for  one  in  trade — His 
cousin — tell  him  his  cousin ' 

The  rest  became  a  confused  murmur.  Her  weakness  was 
too  great,  her  breath  was  halting.  Yet  her  eyes  continued 
open  and  full  of  life,  amid  her  pale,  yellow,  waxy  mask.  And 
those  eyes  seemed  to  fix  themselves  despairingly  on  the  past, 
on  all  that  which  soon  would  be  no  more :  the  little  clock- 
maker's  shop  hidden  away  in  a  populous  neighbourhood ;  the 
gentle  humdrum  existence,  with  a  toiling  husband  who  was 
ever  bending  over  his  watches;  and  the  great  pleasures  of 
Sunday,  such  as  patching   children  fly  their  kitgs    upoq 


the  fortifications.  And  at  last  those  staring  eyes  gazed  vainly 
into  the  frightful  night  which  -was  gathering. 

A  last  time  did  Madame  de  Jonqniere  lean  over  her,  seeing 
that  her  lips  were  again  moving.  There  came  but  a  faint 
breath,  a  voice  from  far  away,  which  distantly  murmured  in 
an  accent  of  intense  grief:  '  She  did  not  cure  me.' 

And  then  Madame  Vetu  expired,  very  gently. 

As  though  this  were  all  that  she  had  been  waiting  for^-^ 
little  Sophie  Couteau  jumped  from  the  bed  quite  satisfied,  and 
went  ofl:  to  play  with  her  doll  again  at  the  far  end  of  the 
ward.  Neither  La  Grivotte,  who  was  finishing  her  bread,  nor 
Elise  Bouquet,  busy  with  her  mirror,  noticed  the  catastrophe. 
However,  amidst  the  cold  breath  which  seemingly  swept  by, 
while  Madame  de  Jonqui^re  and  Madame  Ddsagneaux — the 
latter  of  whom  was  unaccustomed  to  the  sight  of  death — 
were  whispering  together  in  agitation,  Marie  emerged  from 
the  expectant  rapture  in  which  the  continuous,  unspoken 
prayer  of  her  whole  being  had  plunged  her  so  long.  And 
when  she  understood  what  had  happened,  a  feeling  of  sisterly 
compassion — the  compassion  of  a  suffering  companion,  on  her 
side  certain  of  cure — brought  tears  to  her  eyes. 

'  Ah  !  the  poor  woman,'  she  murmured  ;  '  to  think  that  she 
has  died  so  far  from  home,  in  such  loneliness,  at  the  hour 
when  others  are  being  bom  anew  ! ' 

Ferrand,  who,  in  spite  of  professional  indifference,  had 
also  been  stirred  by  the  scene,  stepped  forward  to  verify  the 
death ;  and  it  was  on  a  sign  from  liim  that  Sister  Hyaeinthe 
turned  up  the  sheet,  and  threw  it  over  the  dead  woman's  face, 
for  there  could  be  no  question  of  removing  the  corpse  at  that 
moment.  The  patients  were  now  returning  from  the  Grotto 
in  bands,  and  the  ward,  hitherto  so  calm,  so  full  of  sunshine, 
was  again  filling  with  the  tumult  of  wretchedness  and  pain — 
deep  coughing  and  feeble  shuffling,  mingled  with  a  noisome 
smell — a  pitiful  display,  in  fact,  of  well-nigh  every  human 



On  that  day,  Monday,  the  crowd  at  the  Grotto  was 
enormous.  It  was  the  last  day  that  the  national  pilgrimage 
would  spend  at  Lourdes,  and  Father  Fourcade,  in  his  mom- 


ing  address,  had  said  that  it  -would  bo  necessary  to  make  a 
supreme  effort  of  fervour  and  faith  to  obtain  from  Heaven  all 
that  it  might  be  •wilhng  to  grant  in  the  way  of  grace  and 
prodigious  cure.  So,  from  two  o'clock  in  the  afternoon, 
twenty  thousand  pilgrims  were  assembled  there,  feverish,  and 
agitated  by  the  most  ardent  hopes.  From  minute  to  minute 
the  crowd  continued  increasing,  to  such  a  point,  indeed,  that 
Baron  Suire  became  alarmed,  and  came  out  of  the  Grotto  to 
say  to  Berthaud :  '  My  friend,  we  shall  be  overwhelmed,  that's 
certain.  Double  your  squads,  bring  your  men  closer  to- 

The  Hospitality  of  our  Lady  of  Salvation  was  alone  en- 
trusted with  the  task  of  keeping  order,  for  there  were  neither 
guardians  nor  policemen  of  any  sort  present ;  and  it  was  for 
this  reason  that  the  President  of  the  Association  was  so 
alarmed.  However,  Berthaud,  under  grave  circumstances, 
was  a  leader  whose  words  commanded  attention,  and  who 
was  endowed  with  energy  that  could  be  relied  on.  '  Be  easy,' 
said  he ;  '  I  will  be  answerable  for  everything.  I  shall  not 
move  from  here  until  the  four  o'clock  procession  has  passed 
by.'  . 

Nevertheless,  he  signalled  to  Gerard  to  approach,  '  Give 
your  men  the  strictest  instructions,'  he  said  to  him,  'Only 
those  persons  who  have  cards  should  be  allowed  to  pass. 
And  place  your  men  nearer  each  other ;  tell  them  to  hold  the 
cord  tight.' 

Yonder,  beneath  the  ivy  which  draped  the  rock,  the 
Grotto  opened,  with  the  eternal  flaring  of  its  candles.  Prom 
a  distance  it  looked  rather  squat  and  misshapen,  a  very  narrow 
and  modest  aperture  for  the  breath  of  the  Infinite  which 
issued  from  it,  turning  all  faces  pale  and  bowing  every  head. 
The  statue  of  the  Virgin  had  become  a  mere  white  spot, 
which  seemed  to  move  in  the  quiver  of  the  atmosphere,  heated 
by  the  small  yellow  flames.  To  see  anything  it  was  necessary 
to  raise  oneself;  for  the  silver  altar,  the  harmonium-organ 
divested  of  its  housing,  the  heap  of  bouquets  thrown  there,  the 
votive  offerings  streaking  the  smoky  walls,  were  scarcely  dis- 
tinguishable foom  behind  the  railing.  And  the  day  was  lovely ; 
never  yet  had  a  purer  sky  expanded  above  the  immense 
crowd ;  the  softness  of  the  breeze  in  particular  seemed  delicious 
after  the  storm  o